NEWS | Feb. 4, 2022

U.S., Jordanian Soldiers build relationships through language

By Staff Sgt. Matt Lyman | 29th Infantry Division

Relationships are important, and intentional communication is essential to building relationships. Soldiers assigned to units composing Task Force Spartan are committed to establishing communication with their Jordanian partners while serving at the Joint Training Center near Zarqa, Jordan.

These Soldiers are in a unique position, having Jordanian Armed Forces Soldiers as neighbors in arms and geography with the Jordan Armed Forces Language Institute right up the road from the Joint Training Center.

JAFLI was founded in 1968 and teaches as many as 11 languages simultaneously to students across the rank spectrum. For nearly four decades the staff at the institute have blended theory with practice and offer English, French, Hebrew, Russian, Turkish, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic for non-native speakers. These classes are presented in tiers from beginner to advanced, and there are refresher courses for noncommissioned officers, commissioned officers, and general officers. Successful completion of the course opens doors for Jordanian military personnel and is a requirement for exchange and training programs in the U.S.

The initial connection to JAFLI came to TFS from the U.S. Embassy in Amman. This led to dialogue with the JAFLI staff and ultimately the commandant, Col. Dr. Selah Khalaileh, Royal Jordanian Armed Forces. Khalaileh saw and pursued the opportunity for his students to interact with native English, Spanish, and German speakers.

Khalaileh requested U.S. Soldiers to come to the institute and conduct conversational-style classes with his students. Each class had 12 students, and each class had one or two U.S. Soldiers to guide conversations in English. This particular cycle had eight English classes, one Spanish class, and one German class. 

“This engagement let us meet our new friends in a low threat environment where helping each other was easy,” said Maj. Chris Holmes, legal advisor for the TFS Partner Nation Team, who helped facilitate the engagement. “The Jordanians are friendly, generous, and absolutely thrilled to work with Americans.”

The U.S. Soldiers who participated in the conversational English classes were afforded the opportunity to learn Arabic from the institute’s staff.

“The average American participant learned enough Arabic to be polite, and the Jordanians really appreciate it,” added Holmes.

The participants volunteered from the 29th Infantry Division, Area Support Group –Jordan; 142nd Field Artillery Brigade; the 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment; and 172nd Infantry Regiment.

The instructors would provide a topic to Holmes and he would disseminate it through the volunteers. The weekly topics were gleaned from the students, who had general questions about how Americans did everyday things, and were designed to help them pass their final conversational exams. The topics ranged from American weddings, social events, school, what it was like to be a U.S. Soldier, and a host of other topics that allowed for the students and Soldiers to learn about each other’s culture in a low stress, friendly environment.

“Language is fundamental to communication and communication is fundamental to relationships. From a strategic perspective, other nations, notably China and Russia, understand the importance of language and have reached out to or are already working with JAFLI,” said Holmes. “We should not squander this easy opportunity to help forge critical relationships and even friendships with a regional leader and ally.”

The Soldiers are currently preparing to carry on this relationship with the institute and their student body as they begin their 2022 academic year.

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