Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The ACE Program

Here is the Whitepaper I wrote describing our ACE program to enhance reading and listening skills for people preparing either for a standard language test, or to improve their reading and listening skills in general. Over the last 12 months we had 80% success rates or better improving our students' performance on the DLPT to 2/2 and above on the DLPT V. The 20% who were below a 2 were students who had no refresher training in their languages for at least 5 years, so their 2/1+ scores were still fantastic given their circumstances.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Our Squidoo Lens

I have posted a Lens on Squidoo talking about our ACE program and our strategies to help students ACE the DLPT V. Feel free to visit it and take a look. If you have a Facebook account or a Twitter account feel free to like us or tweet about the page.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Opportunities for Arabic Speakers Rising According to Fortune Magazine

According to this article in Fortune magazine a whole new world of opportunity is opening up for Arabic speakers.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Studies Confirm What I Have Been Preaching for 15 Years

It is amazing what academia spends millions of dollars to confirm. Please read this article. Among the results is that language is learned in social interactions and that we as humans are wired to acquire language.

I have spent the last 15 years of my career working as an applied linguist, teaching language acquisition to others and help others acquire languages such as Arabic, Farsi and Pashto. Using the right strategies and methods I found out that you can help anyone, repeat anyone, acquire a new language starting at level 1 to level 3 (ILR-Interagency Language Roundtable) within a period ranging from 4 weeks (40 hrs/week) for level one to 24 weeks (600 hours) for level 3.

Despite of my proven bone fide results the unbelievers are plenty and the most common objection I hear is that aptitude matters and that some people just cannot do it. These fallacies are propagated by myth makers and academics who usually do not want to do the work needed to help their students acquire a new language. One big reason academics cannot do the work is that they excel at teaching 'about' a language rather than teaching the language. The key to my success is that I have put together a business process for language acquisition where you can turn ANY native speaker of the language into a very efficient language instructor and produces uniform results. These results are replicable across languages as long as the process is followed.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Getting to an average ILR of 2+ Has Just Become Easier

I would like to thank those of you who continue to subscribe or even visit this space despite my apparent lack of commitment to it. However, I write bearing good news, I just finished an exciting project in Florida with an exceptional group of Airmen. It was our usual MSA 24 weeks Arabic course which was supposed to be about 960 hours of instruction to achieve an average OPI ILR of 2+. The bad news is that we never got to 960 hours, not even close. This was a different program in the sense that we took all holidays and training days, plus, being in Florida during the Hurricane season there were some days when we did half days or none at all. That was a blessing in disguise though because it forced me to go into territories I never explored before and try things that are on the cutting edge of brain and education science. The results were astounding! We had five students and we ended up with barely 700 hours of class time. That is almost a 30% reduction in time. The scores were stunning. We had five students who were tested by ACTFL certified testers with ALTA and the scores were 3, 2+, 2, 2, 2.

Traditionally we needed 960 hours or a little more to achieve these results. In this Florida project there were no specific environmental factors that would have caused this surge. Instruction was the same and I would say motivation in class was the same. These results were truly the best Christmas present I could have gotten. I am still analyzing what happened and pouring over the data from the class and I will post my results here. We have several projects this year starting in a couple of weeks that will include Pashto, Chinese and Arabic. I will implement some of the lessons learned there and see if we can do it again in under 960 hours.

Finally, I just got around to doing blogging by SMS and email from my Blackberyy which will allow me to be more current with this blog so stay posted. I also started a GLS page on Facebook and a Twitter account for those of you who Tweet and FB. Please send me your feedback and ideas. I would love talking to you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Home for Our Blog

Starting next week our blog will move to the following address


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

GLS Does It Again

Just finished a 3 weeks Arabic refresher class in Georgia this past week. Students took the DLPT 5 yesterday. GLS Did it again. We had a class Average of 2+ with a passing rate of 75%. Two out of the 8 students actually scored 3/3 and we had a couple of students who went up on the test from 0+ to 2+ in reading.
These are great results but I will continue to work on a 100% success rate for the class with at least 2+/2+. Any standard test can be beaten after a reasonable preparation time (in this case 3-4 weeks). DoD is lowering the passing grade on the test soon and I cannot wait to see how students score after one of my refresher classes with the new adjustments to the passing score.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My ACE Program gets Mentioned in the Press

Deseret News wrote the following article about our current program for the National Guard.

Students mastering Arabic in a flash
By Wendy Leonard
Deseret News
Published: September 25, 2008

DRAPER — Five volunteers from the U.S. military are enrolled in an intense, four-month course to learn one of the world's most in-demand foreign languages.
The language proficiencies and abilities of the 221st Military Intelligence Battalion from Fort Gillem, Ga., may astonish some, but instructor Jabra Ghneim — who helped translate the Book of Mormon into Arabic — expects such accomplishment and more, as thousands of hours have turned out hundreds of productively fluent speakers over the years.

"They learn it to do their jobs, to rise up in the ranks, and of course there is a monetary motivation to it all," he said.

Jabra developed the Ace My Language method, which is currently contracted by the U.S. government for rapid learning of foreign languages such as Arabic, Korean, Farsi and Chinese — all of which are growing in necessity. Other methods have proven less effective, he added.

"Everybody can pick up a language. The only difference is the method used to learn it," Jabra said, adding that for 90 percent of language learners, regular methods do not work.

The only other place in which methods similar to Jabra's are used is at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, which former Brigham Young University linguistics professor Robert Blair said is "an unusual achievement."

"Students like to have an experience of learning a language, an experience where they are speaking and listening full time," Jabra said.

"Students need to be in a language class whenever they start to learn a language, with native speakers. It doesn't work any other way."

After only 2 1/2 months in class, Jabra's students already are using conversational Arabic to communicate, able to discuss anything from what they had for lunch to global warming and politics, with their three native-speaking instructors. They arrive at a proficiency most would require more than a year to grasp, enough to achieve a level 2 rating on the Arabic Defense Language Proficiency Test administered by the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.

"I knew three words in Arabic when this thing started," said David Fuchko, an Army specialist enrolled in Jabra's course. "Now we have conversations just about anything."

He has spent time with the military in Iraq and expects his new skill to come in handy if he's deployed again.

"It will really help being able to speak the language," Fuchko said. "It'd be nice to be aware of what's going on around you and be able to interact with the people there."

The Ace method does not require students to memorize grammar rules or words and phrases by rote repetition, but rather teaches by total immersion into the language.

"They learn as an infant would learn a language," said instructor Ehab Abunuwara. "It's a very relaxed, very natural process."

And it's a process that seems to agree with the students, most of whom have only high school experience with learning a foreign language.

Student Reisa Jackson said she hopes to use her newfound Arabic skills in her human resources job with the Army, but also counts the newfound ability as a personal accomplishment. She said she finds herself "thinking in Arabic first before even thinking in English."

Although she picked up little of the Spanish her father speaks in their home, Jackson has developed quite a proficiency in Arabic and is able to read and pronounce sounds with a near-authentic accent.

"In the very beginning, I had my doubts," she said, adding that she wondered if the instructors knew what they were talking about when they said the group would be able to communicate using Arabic in no time. "It all sounded the same to me, and the script is nothing like we've ever seen before."

Sure enough, however, all five have achieved "remarkable" ability, Blair said, communicating in the once-foreign language.

Jabra runs multiple language programs involving military personnel simultaneously and in different states, currently in Draper and at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. The service, he said, is becoming more popular as the need arises and as other programs fail to deliver desired results.

The learning is intense, five days each week with seven hours dedicated to various Arabic language activities and one hour of lecture-discussion on Middle Eastern culture. No homework is required, although students are encouraged to practice vocabulary using electronic flashcards on their own.

"I know what the MTC can do with missionaries in 12 weeks," Blair said. "But Jabra and his students are well on their way to making a world record in learning Arabic. It's extraordinary."

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com

© 2008 Deseret News Publishing Company | All rights reserved

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Will There Be A Waiver For FLPP Soldiers Who Took the MSA DLPT5?

Will DoD work with students who aready took the Modern Standard Arabic DLPT 5 and have lost their FLPP pay due to lower results? I will try and stay tuned to what happens and see what they decide.

On the other hand, I strongly believe that DLI should look seriously at examining the Iraqi version of the DLPT test. From my observations over this past year, and according to feedback from students of mine who took it, it seems that the Iraqi test was fielded too early and has some serious problems. So far it has not managed to accurately reflect the true performance of students (including some who were native or heritage speakers of the dialect).

Hopefully DLI will use this discovery to strengthen its validation process for other Arabic versions of the DLPT and test thoroughly before releasing anything further in Arabic.

Having said all of the above, I have to say that validaing tests and putting out a solid standard test is a monumental task. They receive lots of whipping that they do not deserve. The current criticism of DLI is mainly a communications problem within DoD. Language requirements differ by the type of work a soldier or an intelligence element performs. What they have tried to do so far is make DLI a do-it-all organization with no flexibility, except for SOCOM (Special Operations Cmmand), in how language instruction is done. That resulted in bottlenecks, cookie-cutter solution for language training, and other problems. I'd rather see DLI play the following roles:

1. DLI should be training grounds for teachers of language rather than teaching students. DLI should focus on train-the-trainer solutions. Language teaching is an art and there is no one absolute way to teach language. A language teacher should be proficient or at least have knowledge of all teaching methods out there. DLI could specialize in providing such training. These trainers can be instructors who work at different JLCs or military educational organizations that train soldiers such as the Special Warfare School at Fort Brag, Air Force Academy and West Point among others. This way DLI would be a force multiplier rather than a bottleneck.

1.1 If you ask, who will teach students if DLI is out of the picture? my answer would be 'decentralization'. JLCs and other military academies and educational organizations plus private language schools should do the training. DLI becomes a certifying authority. If you want to get language training business from DoD then you have to have your instructors be certified by DLI which can include a course attended by instructors at their own expense plus a test taken every 4 years or something like that. This way you open the doors to the private market to take care of the increasing need for training language students and at the same time we know that the instruction received meets DoD standards.

2. DLI should develop curriculum, tests and teaching standards for all of DoD elements. Right now this lack of standards is causing all kinds of fragmentation in teaching, curriculum and not applying the right teaching methods in the right conditions. I have developed a 'Situational Language Teaching method' according to which I teach apply best practices in language teaching to different soldiers depending on where they are in the learning process. I am considering publishing the model here on my blog to get feedback.

DLI on the other hand has some organizational issues. From my personal observation and conversation with several people at DLI it seems to me (and I am open to correction) that there is not much information sharing among teachers, between teachers and students or between administration and faculty and teachers. Lack of a declared teaching methods and organizational memory which prevent study and evaluation as to what are the best practices for language education.

I remain an outsider to DLI and as I said, I am open to being corrected if my assesment is wrong. DLI has been a great resource over they years but I believe it is time for it to adjust its mission and focus on what it can be really good at.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

DLI Suspends DLPT 5

Why am I not surprised. The test was off-the-charts hard, according to many of my students who were 3/3 linguists in the past and scored 1+ on the new test. These were not ordinary students. They have years of experience working with Arabic material much harder than the DLPT and have very exceptional communicative ability.

I believe that DLI needs to do a more thorough job at validation. It has taken me 2 years so far to validate questions for my two upcoming books for Farsi and Iraqi Arabic, so I know how big of a challenge it is (each of my books contains over 400 questions while the DLPT has a total of 128 for both segments.).

Here is a link to the official memorandum suspending the test.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Send Me 12 State Department Employees And They Will Know Arabic At Level 1+ In 5 Weeks

Just read the following article in the Washington Times and it amazes me that despite the desperate need for Arabic speakers the many institutes and colleges that teach Arabic in this country fail to turn out speakers of the language at the rate we need them. This is due, in my opinion to the failure of the methods used and has nothing to do with the difficulty of the language. I personally believe that Arabic is no different than any other language to study and I have the case studies to prove it. But I don't want to discuss that. In response to the State Department's need I am making the following challenge, send me 12 State Department employees, and regardless of their aptitude, I will have them learn MSA (Modern Standard Arabic), or any dialect of Arabic, at level 1+ in listening and speaking in one month of study. Level 1+ being defined as:

Speaking 1+ (Elementary Proficiency, Plus)

Can initiate and maintain predictable face-to-face conversations and satisfy limited social demands. He/she may, however, have little understanding of the social conventions of conversation. The interlocutor is generally required to strain and employ real-world knowledge to understand even some simple speech. The speaker at this level may hesitate and may have to change subjects due to lack of language resources. Range and control of the language are limited. Speech largely consists of a series of short, discrete utterances.

Examples: The individual is able to satisfy most travel and accommodation needs and a limited range of social demands beyond exchange of skeletal biographic information. Speaking ability may extend beyond immediate survival needs. Accuracy in basic grammatical relations is evident, although not consistent. May exhibit the more common forms of verb tenses, for example, but may make frequent errors in formation and selection. While some structures are established, errors occur in more complex patterns. The individual typically cannot sustain coherent structures in longer utterances or unfamiliar situations. Ability to describe and give precise information is limited. Person, space and time references are often used incorrectly. Pronunciation is understandable to natives used to dealing with foreigners. Can combine most significant sounds with reasonable comprehensibility, but has difficulty in producing certain sounds in certain positions or in certain combinations. Speech will usually be labored. Frequently has to repeat utterances to be understood by the general public. (Has been coded S-1+ in some nonautomated applications.)

I have been using my methods with great success with the US Navy, Army and Special Operations for the past 4 years now and I have done this, with relative ease many times.

So, if you are a State Department employee and want to take advantage of the jobs and opportunities offered by the department, call me and I will get you to speak Arabic in 5 weeks. You will get these promotions sooner than you ever thought was possible.

Article published Jun 8, 2007
State desperate for envoys to learn Arabic
June 8, 2007

By Nicholas Kralev
THE WASHINGTON TIMES - The State Department, in an unprecedented move highlighting its desperate need for Arabic speakers, is allowing U.S. diplomats to curtail their current assignments anywhere in the world and begin Arabic language training in September.

Foreign Service officers who are interested in learning Arabic or improving existing skills have until the end of July to apply for more than 100 positions in Arabic-speaking countries that will open in the next two years.

Asked why the program has been initiated only now — nearly six years after the September 11, 2001, attacks and more than four years into the Iraq war — department officials cited a lack of resources.

In a cable to all State Department employees worldwide on Wednesday, George M. Staples, director-general of the Foreign Service, urged them to seriously consider learning "one of the more difficult foreign languages for English speakers to master."

"We recognize that we must improve our ability to understand and influence an area of continuing importance to our nation's well-being," Mr. Staples wrote in the cable, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.

The department "will consider breaking any tenured employee out of his/her current assignment for a September 2007 language start: for either the two-year program or one-year to improve or take existing Arabic language skills beyond your current level," he wrote.

Junior officers must get tenure within five years of joining in order to remain in the service. That benchmark is separate from the promotion process.

The State Department has about 270 employees with "general professional proficiency" in Arabic — or speaking and reading ability sufficient to do their jobs — according to department figures. Another 700 have limited knowledge.

The department, on which Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen P. Hughes has put a particular emphasis on improving the U.S. image in the Arab and Muslim world, has been criticized repeatedly since 2001 for its shortage of Arabic speakers.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February that her agency is "putting a great effort into language development for our diplomats," and that "this country has been underinvested in the study of critical languages like Arabic, Farsi, even Chinese, for a very long time."

She noted, however, that "this is something that takes awhile to remedy," and officials yesterday could not explain why it took them years to make their latest decision, saying they try to do their best with the available resources.

A report by the bipartisan Foreign Affairs Council this week criticized Miss Rice for failing to request more funds for the department despite her influence with President Bush.

Mr. Staples' cable contained a list of the Arabic-language positions for which employees can bid. Those officers who require only a year of training can apply for jobs opening in 2008, and those who need two years for slots opening in 2009.

Out of the 48 positions next year, 27 are at the embassy in Baghdad. In the so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams, where State Department personnel work together with the military, Arabic is not required but is strongly encouraged.

Plucking dozens of diplomats out of their current assignments is not likely to be welcomed by the management of the "losing posts," officials said. They insist that there are important countries outside the Middle East and expressed concern that missions in other key areas could suffer from the early departure of some employees.

"The department understands that this initiative may well create some new vacancies at posts in addition to existing vacancies resulting from the deficit at the mid-ranks," said Mr. Staples, who is retiring at the end of July.

"While [we] will make every effort to find a qualified replacement for the losing post, at this time we do not foresee that existing resources will allow us to fill in behind every employee who curtails, nor do we anticipate having alternative-employment funding available to reimburse bureaus for costs resulting from these possible curtailments," he said.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Answers To Common Questions About Ace My language-Arabic Edition (aka Ace The DLPT-Arabic Edition)

I receive so many inquiries about my book Ace My language-Arabic Edition (aka Ace The DLPT-Arabic Edition) and I have written so many people back that it makes sense to post some of my answers here.

What is Ace My Language-Arabic Edition? Did you stop publishing Ace The DLPT-Arabic Edition?

Well, both are actually the same book but here is the story. When I first published Ace The DLPT-Arabic Edition it was a great success with the students. After all, and realistically speaking, that is what every student wants. Two things happened though. The book was a success with Arabic language students outside the military circles and we received distribution deals in Europe and orders from several colleges around the US and Europe.

The second thing that happened was that I met with a friend of mine who is a major and works for DLI and he explained to me that while the success of the book has been established and while the students love it and can see great improvement in their scores after using it, the name of the book makes it sound like its only purpose is to help the students pass the test, which is not the case since our data shows that after using the book learners receive a long term boost in their language ability.

So our decision was, based on our expanded audience, and to clear any misunderstanding we decided to change the name of the brand to Ace My Language.

How does your book help me improve my Arabic?

My book is based on a simple philosophy which is that listening is the key to both learning (more about this in a minute) and maintaining a language. It contains 406 questions selected by a statistical model to guarantee maximum exposure to MSA (Modern Standard Arabic). Many of the book's users have been in the military taking the DLPT regularly over a 15 years period. A great percentage of them have reported that after using the book on their own by listening to the passages and reading the text they managed to score 3's in both the listening and reading parts of the DLPT for the first time in their career.

The book has significantly more listening material in it than any other book on the market. In addition to that it is listening material that is transcribed and you can refer to it in the book. Reading after listening helps a lot. The statistical research behind the book is aimed at increasing your level of Arabic by one level at least on any standard test such as the DLPT and it also increases your real-life performance in the language as it trains you on the highest frequency words and structures used in the language. What makes the book especially useful is that it is based on a massive corpus that contains over 100 million words which I have built, maintained and expanded on since 1994. A corpus is simply a database of articles in the target language. A great portion of my database is tagged and that is what allowed me to build a model that theoretically guarantees that your language performance will increase after using the book.

How do your results compare to Rosetta Stone and Auralog?

Both RS and Auralog are great programs. I actually use RS in my spare time as a part of curriculum I designed to teach myself Farsi. Auralog is a massive program that is also very useful in building your language. If you have the money to buy them or have access to them via the military do use them especially if your unit does not have the money to send you to class.

Results from using such programs actually vary widely. If you are a self-starter, have plenty of time, and a discipline for study plus a high aptitude for the language
learning then you will probably do well. Unfortunately, many people I meet with, especially in military circles, do not have the time to spend behind a computer learning a language. Not many people have access to a laptop they can carry around for those few moments they have to learn a language or maintain what they already know. Consequently, I believe that the best way to start learning a language is in a classroom with an instructor who will speak and apply the language in class over 90% of the time. For the great majority of people I work with RS and Auralog are not enough, on their own, to teach language. You need to start in a class (more in a minute about that). If you already know the language and desire to increase your score then you need a book that will offer you lots of listening material, preferably with that material in a transcribed form also so that you can read 'after' you've listened.

I have designed the Ace My language Series on that premise. The book is accompanied with a CD that has more listening material on it that any other product in the market including RS and Auralog. If you have already finished a class and you are at an ILR of 2 then AML-Arabic Edition will help you move faster to the next level than any other product I know in the market. If you are at an ILR of 0+-1+, and you have learned how to use the Hans Vehr Dictionary the book will definitely deliver results for you but it will be a slightly slower process than the people at an ILR of 2 or above.

Do you have Ace My Language books for other languages or dialects?

In June of 2007 I will publish three new books. One of them is AML-Iraqi Arabic Edition, which will be the first book of its kind with a DVD including hundreds of minutes of native Iraqi Arabic speakers in live, non-scripted conversations with DLPT-like questions attached to each conversation. This product will be far more useful than any other Iraqi product in the market for learning and improving your knowledge of Iraqi Arabic. We will also publish an AML-Farsi edition during the same month.

We also have plans for AML-Spanish in mid 2008, AML-Chinese and AML Korean by late 2008.

Is the value of the book diminished because of the new version of the DLPT ?

Absolutely not. All that changed in the new version is the length of the articles and the number of questions per test article. AML-Arabic Edition is designed statistically to make sure you acquire as much of the language as you can. If you do all 406 questions and give them a good try you will succeed in 'any' standard Arabic test regardless of how the format of the test changes.

Do You offer training classes?

I do indeed. Global Language Systems, a company I own and operate, has been in the business of Arabic language training for the past 4 years. I have taught classes from all branches of the US military including the US Navy, US Army, Rangers and National Guard. I teach classes for MSA Arabic, Iraqi Arabic, Levant Arabic and Egyptian Arabic. Like the books, I have developed a training methodology that enables me to teach students the language at an ILR of 1 (spoken and listening) in 160 hours of classroom interaction (one month, 5 days a week, 8 hours per day).The methodology has been tested with great success by the US Navy and the Army Rangers. My classes are based on the same methodology of the books where students are taught the high frequency words in the language then they are drilled daily in that language using that vocabulary until they can produce it spontaneously.

This is all I have for now. Hope it is useful. I will add more questions and answers as they come in.