By Staff Sgt. Robert Wollenberg, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 14, 2008 - The Afghan National Army Air Corps here has opened a new school to teach English to Afghan pilots and other Afghan military professionals. Fifty students are enrolled in classes designed for beginners without English skills and for more advanced students to improve their proficiency.
Students are given a test to determine where they should be placed in the curriculum. To be a pilot, a student must test above 80. As the international aviation language, English is a requirement for all international pilots.
"They have to score an 80, and that's very difficult," said Penni Shanahan, English Language Training Team leader. "If we can, we take one or two students with us (to lunch), so they can hear Americans speaking English."
The students have assignments every night. They also use audio tapes and are required to speak English when in the schoolhouse.
"We're having great, great results," Shanahan said. "The students who are pilots are in the top class, and they are scoring 60s and 70s, so we're almost there. And we're not even halfway done, so that's encouraging."
To encourage the students, the faculty has ordered English dictionaries that will be loaned to each new student upon acceptance into the course. Laptops also are being ordered to help Afghans with their English studies.
The faculty works for International Logistics Solutions, a subcontractor for Lockheed Martin. Each teacher holds a master's degree in teaching English as a second language and has lived overseas. There are currently five teachers, two more are on their way, and more are being planned for.
"I was approached and asked if I'd be willing to come to Afghanistan and teach a group of pilots English so they could communicate with the tower," Shanahan said. "And I've worked for American Airlines before doing that, so I said, 'Sure.'
"It's so much fun; it's a blast," she added. "These guys are so motivated and so excited about what's happening in Afghanistan, how things are getting better, and they want things better. They want a future for their children."
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Wollenberg serves with Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan Public Affairs.)