Defense Department Cultural and Linguistic Resources

The concepts of “culture” and “cultural awareness” are big deals in the military just at the moment, and while some of the government’s approaches to these issues – “embedded” anthropologists, anyone? – aren’t widely popular, it’s hard to argue with the basic premise; knowledge is power, and valuable power, at that.
To that end, I recently came across an incredibly spiffy website produced by the Defense Language Institute, or DLI. Called “Field Support”, the service of the DLI’s Foreign Language Center offers remarkably in-depth guides to thirty-eight countries and forty-eight languages or dialects. While the language guides have a pretty distinct military emphasis – just see the picture below – the cultural information is pretty universally applicable. Some of the knowledge tests and exams require you to have an account on their system, but the majority of the site is accessible to the world.

Now, to be honest, the majority of the places covered by this website are not ones most of us would pick to, say, take a vacation; to be fair, that’s probably kind of the point – to produce cultural and linguistic primers for countries which don’t have fancy guidebooks, tourism industries, or even a Ministry of Tourism to help foreigners fit in a little bit better. While, as mentioned before, the language material can be a little bit tactical, this could actually be of benefit; once you get beyond the target audience – military personnel – I’m sure that, as one example, law enforcement officers in a lot of cities could benefit from knowing how to say “Are you hurt?” in Somali (meel koo Hanoonaysa maa jirtaa?, phonetically.)

The website can be found right here; simply select a country or language from the drop-down boxes at the top, and get on your way. While you’re there, be sure not to miss their section of downloadable guides on cultures, countries, and languages. Pretty spiffy stuff, and of quite remarkable depth.

Published in: Geekiness, General | on May 8th, 2008| Comments Off on Defense Department Cultural and Linguistic Resources

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