Armed with Language in Uruzgan Armed with Language in Uruzgan: A Study on Language Policy in Conflict Zones and English/Afghan Military Language Training
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This thesis aims to investigate whether the choices made in the language provision to Dutch military personnel deployed in Uruzgan between 2006 and 2010 had an impact on their interaction with the local population. Research indicates that communicating and interacting with locals greatly influence the success of future missions (McFarland, 2005, p. 62). Although little research has been conducted on language planning in conflict zones, a number of scholars have broached this subject. Vane (2011) suggests that languages such as Arabic, Pashtu and Dari should be added to the language training programmes for soldiers. However, McFarland (2005) argues for simpler ways of communication, such as non-verbal communication. Five respondents who served during Task Force Uruzgan and who were willing to participate in this study were asked to complete a questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of eight open questions and two statements. Later, an additional question was sent by email. The respondents completed the questionnaire online. The results include: (1) the importance of containing research into training programmes for soldiers; (2) cultural training and Pashtu language training would have contributed to the mission and would have helped the respondents in carrying out their tasks; (3) since locals, interpreters, translators and Afghan soldiers were not proficient in English, it was of little use for the army in engaging with Afghans during the mission, The importance and usage of the English language could have been overestimated in this case by Dutch defence academies; (4) this study provides additional anecdotal evidence that other factors, such as unpleasant experiences, physical battle and not being well informed of certain aspects of the mission might have been important factors for Dutch military personnel’s behavioural change towards the locals, as indicated by several respondents.