Monterey, California - Every year at the Presidio of Monterey, students and staff participate in Language Day, a public event dedicated to honoring and celebrating the diversity of culture at the Defense Language Institute (DLI). In celebration of the event, the Presidio of Monterey opened its gates to the public for the day, May 10.
This year, students of each of the many languages taught at DLI, to Include those attached to Information Warfare Training Command Monterey, displayed the culture and traditions of those languages with dances, songs, and a variety of other cultural activities.
Community members enjoyed cuisine from around the world with traditional dishes such as Filipino lumpias, Indian samosas, and fresh Mediterranean baklava as well as displays of artifacts and architecture from Russia and made-in-the-moment posters in Arabic script.
The event kicked off with the posting of the colors by the Joint Service Color Guard, followed by the mainstage performances. Students from the Chinese course left the audience in awe as dragons danced about the stage to the heavy beating of drums. Those learning the Arabic language performed a spirited debka dance, while the up-and-coming Spanish linguists inspired the crowd to stand up and move to the rhythm of salsa.
“Language day is important, specifically for those who don’t go to DLI,” said Seaman Johnathan George, a student at DLI. “For the residents of Monterey, to get to know what goes on here on base, especially for the people who have never traveled outside of the United States, it gives them an opportunity to be able to understand and be immersed in a new culture.”
The festivities were eye-opening, even for students of DLI.
“For those of us on base, every day we just go directly to our language-specific schoolhouse, and we don’t see much of the other languages or cultures,” said Seaman Kiersten Stone. “Now we all get to come together… to celebrate each other’s cultures and listen to the languages and enjoy the different customs.”
Language Day is a chance for the military students and their primarily civilian teachers to work together to put on cultural performances which are enjoyable for all. Along the way, they eliminate stereotypes associated with some countries and increase understanding of different custom. While military personnel do not take lightly to the fact that we learn languages in order to defend our national security, DLI is unprecedented in its ability to blend the warrior mindset with the deeper human connection of cultural fluency.
“Any linguist will tell you that language and culture are inextricably linked,” said Cmdr.Michael Salehi, commanding officer of IWTC Monterey. “Today’s event was an opportunity for students to focus on the cultural aspect of their target language, while at the same time appreciate all the other cultures that the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center has to offer. It was especially impressive to see students fully immerse themselves by dressing up in traditional garb, dancing, and working with others to demonstrate what they have culturally acquired in such a short period of time.”
Throughout the day, the public is witness to the talent of our future military leaders. The peace of our nation has and will continue to rely on our relationships and ability to communicate with other countries. Language Day is a genuine display of these communication skills.
While enjoying the festivities, Gulf War veteran Kevin Folcol stated, “When I was in, you might say it was one-sided as far as what we knew about other cultures. But today has, without a doubt, changed my perspective.”
The Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coastguardsmen of DLI, alongside their instructors, have dedicated countless hours to preparing for this event. The public undoubtedly left thankful for all their contributions.
Since the institute’s beginning in the 1950s, it has been customary to set aside a day to celebrate the diversity that makes DLI, the military and the nation great. This tradition will go on for years to come, and it will evolve with the languages that become essential to the mission. Perhaps most importantly, Language Day will continue to inspire acceptance and accept inspiration with the same transparency that the students, the men, and women of today’s military, will carry with them far beyond the gates of the Presidio of Monterey.
IWTC Monterey, as part of the Center for Information Warfare Training, provides a continuum of foreign language training to Navy personnel, which prepares them to conduct information warfare across the full spectrum of military operations.
With four schoolhouse commands, two detachments, and training sites throughout the United States and Japan, CIWT is recognized as Naval Education and Training Command’s top learning center for the past three years. Training over 21,000 students every year, CIWT delivers trained information warfare professionals to the Navy and joint services. CIWT also offers more than 200 courses for cryptologic technicians, intelligence specialists, information systems technicians, electronics technicians, and officers in the information warfare community.