Language Maintenance at a Distance: The Daily Russian "Vitamin"
AIR FORCE ACADEMY COLORADO SPRINGS CO INST FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY APPLICATIONS
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This two-week pilot study addressed one of the Department of Defenses DoD most difficult training problems how to maintain use or lose language skills among its linguists. The study, which involved over 300 linguists at 61 installations worldwide, was designed to support the Air Force strategy of Global Engagement by regularly providing pedagogically sound language maintenance materials in small doses, and encouraging linguists to maintain skills by building an interactive, supportive community of professionals. Participants were enrolled in two e-mail distribution lists an Announce list, which pushed a Russian vitamin lesson to linguists each day for 10 consecutive business days, and the Discuss list, where linguists were encouraged to comment on lessons, discuss relevant issues, and build on-going relationships with other participants. Using existing technology, the study demonstrated the feasibility of the lesson delivery system and the potential of networking linguists into an online community via a listserv. Initial recruitment of participants was problematic due to the lack of an Air Force-wide database of linguists. Those that did participate were highly enthusiastic throughout the project. The all-inclusive, concise lesson format was found to be user-friendly and extremely useful for language maintenance. The Discuss list proved to be a useful forum for community building as linguists took advantage of the opportunity to express views and opinions on issues relevant to the group and to receive feedback. Of those subjects that completed the end of study survey, 96 indicated they agreed or strongly agreed this was an effective method of language maintenance. The article closes with recommendations on developing and conducting distance-learning courses of this type for military audiences.
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