Breaking the language barrier

by Steph Edington
Stripes Europe

Learning even a little of the local language will improve your experience of everyday things like shopping, dining out and traveling. It also ensures a more pleasant exchange with local nationals. There are many available resources to help you learn key phrases, to basic skills, to a more comprehensive and fundamental understanding of a language. Check out these resources to find the right program for you. 

Distance learning and online resources 

Transparent Language – Library patrons of both U.S. Air Force and Army library systems can sign up and access the Transparent Language program online. Choose between a simple, linear study progression or tackle in-depth modules of dozens of games and activities to build reading and writing skills, vocabulary and speaking skills by comparing pronunciation to that of a native speaker. More than 80 language modules are offered. This program replaces the Rosetta Stone language system previously offered. 

To apply for a library card or sign up for the program, visit or

Mango Languages USAF library patrons may also access Mango Languages using their library card. Mango is self-paced and designed to teach fundamentally practical and conversational language tools without training, tools or downloads. The program also provides audio examples, allows for voice recording and pronunciation comparison, and offers interactivity to view literal translations and phonetic pronunciation of words and phrases. 

DIY- Check out your favorite online bookstore for available foreign language programs, CDs and audiobooks. A great series of language books is the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Phrase Books. While they work only on memorization of key words and phrases, these pocket-sized books will teach you enough to get by without having to spend the time and money on a classroom program. Best of all – you can find them online for under $10. 

On base and your community 

Force Support Squadron (FSS) - Air Force FSS offers language classes at their community centers through the Adult Continuing Education program. Fees are under $100 for textbook-based, eight-week courses that meet weekly. Beginner, intermediate and advanced level classes are available, and currently classes are taught in German, French, Italian and ESL. Contact your area AF community center for upcoming classes. 

Army Community Service (ACS) - Free conversational foreign language classes are offered on a regular basis through the Relocation Readiness program. The classes focus on key phrases for travel and living abroad, and do not offer foundational concepts. Contact ACS for class information. 

Child, Youth and School Services (CYS) - Get the kids involved with the SKIES after-school program offered through CYS Services. These fee-based classes take place a few times a week for about two months. 

The USO - The United Service Organizations (USO) offers various textbook-based language classes in a progressive, classroom-style format focusing on the basics like grammar, tenses, conjugation and sentence structure. Class fees vary, meeting at least once per week and lasting several weeks. Beginner, intermediate and advanced level classes are available. For information about classes, call the European Regional Office at 0049-631- 3406-4403. 

Inlingua is a leading language training organization with 345 Language Centers in 44 countries around the world. Their teaching method combines an in-classroom immersion technique with specially written textbooks to help students learn to understand and speak a language effectively. Classes are offered in basic, intermediate and advanced levels, with a final certification test. For classes in German, French, Spanish and Italian, fees range from €210 for six people/group class to €840 for private lessons. Class schedules are flexible and meet one to two nights per week, 45 minutes each and approximately 30 hours per course. 

Berlitz International is another well-known and exceptional language training program with instructional classes at 500 worldwide facilities in more than 50 languages. For individual studies, the Berlitz Method© utilizes a variety of delivery platforms such as face-to-face instruction at a Berlitz Language Center, live online training, interactive online self-study or blended options. Programs are also available for children and corporate clients. 

Be sure to check with local community centers and schools for language classes. In Germany, the Volkshochschule (community college) offers classes in German, English, French, Italian and Spanish, with initial proficiency tests to help place you in the right level of study. 

No matter where you go to learn your language skills, or how much you intend to absorb, don’t forget to apply it - take time to speak the langauge with locals. Even if you make mistakes, they will appreciate your consideration and effort, as you would if the situation were reversed.

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