By Matthew Langston
Leader’s Training Course
Cadet Jose Morales hears the drill sergeant yelling at him, but struggles to understand exactly what is being said. Morales must process these words before beginning to structure a sentence in reply.
For many Cadets at the Leader’s Training Course, the physical activity and training itself may prove the most challenging part of being here. For this Bravo Company Cadet, there is another challenge he must battle every day.
A student at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, Morales primarily speaks Spanish, with English as his second language. Morales said the most challenging part about speaking English is learning non-traditional words.
“The biggest problem is some slang words that they use and they know what it means, but I don’t,” Morales said. “Some words, I don’t know what it means so I have to ask what this word means or what this phrase means.”
As Morales speaks with others at LTC, especially the drill sergeants, he must focus on listening to what they are saying. Then, he must plan a response.
“When you are talking, you have to think a little bit first,” Morales said. “When the drill sergeant is asking you something, you have to wait a little bit and this can be difficult.”
One of Morales’ biggest obstacles before coming to LTC this summer was the Oral Proficiency Interview, or OPI. During the test, Morales had to listen to a person on the phone speaking to him in English, and he had to respond in English. The test included giving directions to his home and paraphrasing a paragraph that was read to him.
To help prepare Cadets for the test, the ROTC in which Morales was a part of was not allowed to speak one word in Spanish, instead using English to communicate.
“I was worried before taking the OPI, but I passed that test,” Morales said. “I was a little bit worried because obviously it’s not my first language.”
Morales said he studies English every day, and that there is an English center in his detachment in Puerto Rico that offers classes ranging from advanced English down to teaching those that do not know anything at all.
“If you don’t pass the OPI, you have to directly take those classes,” Morales said. “There are English teachers that help you with any problem you have.”
Lt. Col. Brian Slack, chief of training for LTC, said there is not a program or classes here at the post that help Cadets such as Morales with their language issues.
“Some of the brigades send their guys through language training before they show up here or go out to LDAC,” Slack said. “But no, that’s not something that we do as a matter of routine here.”
Slack said some Cadets do show up to LTC with issues speaking English depending on the geographic region they are coming from, but it is not too common.
“Most of these Cadets, when they show up here, they understand that everything we’re going to be doing here is in English,” Slack said. “I don’t think it’s that prevalent.”
Although he has been on trips to America, Morales said this summer will be the longest duration of time he has been in the States. While he is here, he said he has one major accomplishment in sight.
“My major goal is that one, the rappelling tower,” Morales said. “I’m afraid of heights.”
Morales said he came to LTC for the experience of the course and is going to continue to work on improving his English as he trains here at Fort Knox.
“I’m confident that I can keep learning, and keep making my accent a little bit lower and speak louder,” Morales said.