Ask Away: 5 Questions for a Marine Corps Cryptologic Linguist Learning Pashto
We’re asking students, teachers, and counselors five questions on how languages play a role in shaping personal and professional success…
Meet Logan—a Montana Native Become Cryptologic Linguist for the United States Marine Corps.
What was your first experience learning a language other than English—when did you start and how?
I first had very basic introductory classes in elementary school, and more in middle school, but high school is where my interest and ability really took off. Taking Spanish all four years and being a part of a very well developed and interesting language/culture program there was definitely the start to my language journey.
What inspired and motivated you to keep learning the language?
The passionate teachers at my school, support from my family, and traveling showed me the importance of learning about other languages and cultures. My teachers were the most impactful in sustaining and encouraging my interest and desire.
Have there been times you struggled with aspects of learning a new language, and how did you overcome them?
Many times, while learning, I feel overwhelmed by new grammar rules, volumes of vocabulary, and more recently learning a whole new alphabet with completely different sounds.
But my Spanish teacher, Señora Emerson, was always great at calming my anxieties by taking everything one step at a time.
4. Could you share with us a favorite conversation or moment that took place in another language—why is it special or memorable to you?
An experience that will forever remain engraved in my memory was during a time on vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
My family and I were hanging out at a semi-populated beach area, but surprisingly I was the only one who heard a young man yelling “Ayudame,” or “Help me!”
It appeared as though he was being pulled out to the ocean by the tide. I grabbed a surf board and paddled out to him and helped bring him back to shore, I asked if he was alright and he said he was tired, we both were exhausted from fighting to swim back. We simply went our separate ways and I laid on the beach to rest.
That experience for me solidified the importance of at least knowing the language of the people around you, and not being an ignorant tourist.
5. What role do language and cultural skills play in your current occupation? What’s up next on your language journey?
Language and culture skills are a large part of the occupation of a Cryptologic Linguist in the Military. The main duty of the job is to know the language and culture of the area you are assigned. While I am currently a student, future responsibilities could be crucial to the nation’s defense, as it depends largely on information that comes from foreign languages.
I am currently learning Pashto at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. The course is as long as a regular school day, but the only class is Pashto. I now realize how nice it was going from English to Spanish, because both languages share a very similar alphabet. And now it will be another challenge learning to read/write right to left, pronouncing words with different sounds and dialects, and studying a culture that had largely been off my radar.
After that it’s not completely clear as to where my journey will take me, it will depend mostly on the needs of the Marine Corps, but I hope to continue developing my linguistic skills and appreciation of previously mysterious cultures.
BONUS QUESTION: What’s your favorite word or expression in another language? (Why, and what does it mean?)
No tener pelos en la lengua is an idiom that I learned in Spanish class, but took me a while to realize what it meant, because the direct translation means “not to have hairs on the tongue.”
I eventually figured it out to be more synonymous with being blunt and honest. But my trouble with this phrase made it my favorite or most memorable.
Interested in exploring language scholarships, university programs, or student testimonials in Spanish? Visit our Lead with Spanish page to learn more. Or, want to explore language careers in the U.S. Government? Check out some of the possibilities here.
And, as always, don’t forget to share your language learning story @LeadWLanguages on social media!