News: Learning the lingua franca
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher Jelle
MAYSAN PROVINCE, Iraq – English is the third most spoken language in the world. When international oil companies began drilling in Iraq in 2009, they used English as the primary language for business communications.
It's no surprise then that when Maysan's government and community leaders were asked by the Maysan Provincial Reconstruction Team what would benefit the community, English classes were at the top of the list.
Twelve Iraqi English students attended the first English as a second language class held at the Maysan Training and Development Center near Camp Garry Owen, Feb. 10. Of the 12 students attending the classes, one of them was female.
While most of the students attended the classes to improve their business communications or because they plan to travel to the United States, the young woman is attending the class with her brother-in-law to simply broaden her horizons. Requesting to stay anonymous, she said she wants to be able to read books and news on the internet that are printed in English.
She also said that even though it took a little while to get used to the atmosphere of the classroom, the other students welcomed and encouraged her.
The rest of the students said they plan to use the skills they learn during the seven-month course to increase their business communication skills.
“They are eager to learn other things by using English,” said Hasan Jabber Hussein, one of the two instructors for the English course and a professor at the University of Maysan. Hasan said the students enjoy learning more about their own fields by communicating with foreigners with similar careers.
While English classes have been taught in Iraq in primary and intermediate schools before, the lessons were used more for propaganda under the previous regime according to Hasan.
“[In] our past regime, the text books and the methods used to teach [English] made the students too weak or novice in learning English,” said Hasan.
As more and more western books, magazines, films and videogames come onto the Iraqi market, the interest in learning English has increased, especially among young people.
The new classes use a communication-style of learning that is similar to ESL classes found in the United States. The course consists of two-hour classes held twice a week for approximately six months.
“We are also working with the education community to provide ‘train-the-trainer’ classes in English teaching methodology,” said Anne Callaghan, Maysan PRT leader, who hopes that the students attending the classes continue to pursue their education with English.
Callaghan added, “As Maysan develops economically and broadens its international reach, having an English-speaking workforce will be of great benefit.”