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News | Feb. 21, 2013

Afghan soldiers voluntarily take English lessons

By Sgt. Bobby Yarbrough , Regional Command Southwest

CAMP ALAMO, Afghanistan — Scribbling inside his notebook, Sgt. Najibullah Qabel writes down his homework assignment—write one paragraph, containing five sentences, that demonstrate past and present verb tenses.

During the past 16 weeks, Qabel and other Afghan National Army soldiers with the 1st Brigade, 215 Corps have voluntarily taken home the daily assignments as part of an English course taught by the brigade’s advisor team here.

For Qabel, the assignment will be challenging, but one he is more than willing to do.

Qabel studied English before while attending high school in Kunar Province, but it has been 12 years since he graduated. He admits he has forgot a lot of the basics, but he says he is eager to relearn them.

“I don’t want to miss out on learning something because I do not understand the language,” said Qabel. “We can learn a lot from the [advisor team] and I want to be able to communicate with them.”

The Course

The Marines with the 1st Brigade advisor team developed the English course after ANA Col. Mohammad Sarwar, the brigade’s executive officer, asked the Marines if they could teach basic English skills to some of the soldiers.

In September 2012, the Marines began teaching a four-week course to a handful of ANA officers and enlisted soldiers. At the time, it was designed to be a one-time course; however, the class was so successful they decided to continue it.

The course is divided into two groups: basic and advanced. The different classes allow for each student to learn at their pace and provides an opportunity for individual growth.

The basic class teaches alphabet pronunciation, writing uppercase and lowercase letters, and speaking introductory phrases. The advanced class challenges students with writing assignments, which include forming sentences, using proper verb conjugation, and subject-verb agreements.

According to Capt. Jason Thomas, the information officer with the 1st Brigade advisor team, the class is fundamental to building a relationship between the Marines and the brigade.

“These types of programs are vital as advisors because the first rule is to build rapport,” said Thomas. “That’s what we are doing. We are getting that face-to-face interaction with Afghans teaching them a skill we have that they are interested in learning.”

Thomas said teaching English is a rewarding experience for him because it brings him closer to the ANA soldiers he works alongside daily.

“Things get busy and at times hectic,” said Thomas. “But when I go to class and teach those guys, when I am done, I am always happy. It’s very rewarding because each class they learn a little bit and become very excited to use what they learned.”

Qabel said he would continue to attend class as long as it is available to him. He says he loves learning and he will continue to absorb as much as he can.

“I am 30 years old and I continue to learn something each day,” said Qabel. “With English, it is the same way. Your learning is never complete.”