JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --
In a building boasting around 100 offices, one small room serves a unique purpose for a rather broad mission. The room is called the Language Learning Center, and it provides Airmen from the 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron the chance to brush up on a language almost everyone is required to know: French.
The 818th MSAS Airmen travel to roughly 20 different countries in Africa throughout the year on a variety of relationship-building and knowledge-sharing missions. These missions require that they be able to communicate in the local language, which is usually French or English.
The LLC, a project designed to find a better way for Airmen to learn and enhance their French, opened its doors in September 2019. Before the LLC opened, Airmen would study at their desks and take online courses through the Air Force Culture and Language Center and interact with a personal tutor digitally. However, a lack of tutors led air advisors to look for new ways to learn.
“That's why we decided we needed to bring back the Language Learning Center, so people could come and practice their language in a more congenial environment than the offices” said Clive Roberts, 818th MSAS command language education program manager.
The LLC offers traditional and unique ways to brush up on French, including books, board games, study booths, French TV shows and virtual reality games. The room is available 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday.
According to Roberts, Airmen selected to the 818th MSAS go through a 14-week French course at the Air Advisor Academy, followed by a two week immersion program with a host family in France. Students must maintain competency and retake the French proficiency test every year, which is why the Language Learning Center is so important to their mission to advise and build relationships with partner nations.
“Language skills are very much like physical skills,” Roberts said. “Your physical condition will deteriorate unless you maintain it.”
Airmen are required to practice French for a minimum of two hours each week as part of a larger language program.
Squadron leadership started discussing the possibility of a language center in 2017. The 818th MSAS Department of Intel Language and Culture obtained $45,000 in funding to re-purpose an unused storage space within the 621st Contingency Response Wing headquarters building. They used the budget to purchase items like furniture, learning material, a digital language-tracker program, Oculus virtual reality systems and a powerful computer to support it.
The LLC is looking at obtaining more services in the future by adding additional virtual reality software and interactive scenarios to challenge students.
“The future will be combining the knowledge of the culture with the language,” said Roberts.