Friday, May 7, 2010

Pashtu; Gesundheit

On May 10, 1985, I turned 19 years old and enlisted in the Active Duty Army after serving in the Army Reserves for approximately the previous two and half years. One of the main reasons I went Active Duty was to go to Germany, where I lived for three years during the late '70s and attended middle school as a DoD dependent. I had fond memories of Germany and wanted to go back as an adult.

From Salt Lake City, Utah, I was sent to Fort Jackson, in South Carolina, where I was fully in-processed into the Active Army and then put on a plane to Frankfurt/Rhein Main, Germany. I was then sent to Heidelberg where I spent the next couple of years having a great time exploring Germany and Europe.

One of the first things I did when I arrived in Heidelberg was attend the mandatory five-day "Headstart" program. The purpose of Headstart was to give soldiers a grounding in basic German language and the German culture. Soldiers were taught how to count to ten, say yes and no, thank you and please, and other common helpful phrases. We also learned many English words are derived directly from German; like gesheundheit means "healthiness" and kindergarten literally means "children garden". Since I had lived in Germany as a kid, I had a bit of a headstart (pun intended), on the other soldiers, but pretended I was a language prodigy in order to look good for the Frauleins in the class.

Even though Headstart was a bit of a rehash for me, I still learned some new words and was able to get a good grounding of basic grammar and expand my Deutche vocabulary. So, when I found out I was definitely deploying to Afghanistan, one of the first things I wanted to know was if there was a Headstart program for Pashtu (or Pashto - depending on who you talk to).

The short answer is "no", but I (and everyone else deploying) did receive quite a bit of language and background materials in various forms ranging from an inch and a half-thick book on Islamic culture to a CD consisting of a mini-Headstart with Pashtu numbers and phrases. I also received an "Afghanistan Culture Smart Card"; basically an 18"x12" laminated sheet that folds-up, a la road-map style, into a three by five inch packet that fits perfectly into my ACU breast-pocket - I have it with me at all times.

Before we deployed, I did listen to the CDs and went over the smartcard, however here at TK, we really are not exposed to the locals very much (except for the bazaar on Sundays - I will tell you about that another time) so I haven't yet had the opportunity to see how terrible my pronunciation really is, but, if the occasion arises, I will be able to say gesundheit in Pashtu.

No comments:

Post a Comment