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US Soldiers celebrate European Language Day in Poland

By Sgt. Shiloh Capers | 7TH MOBILE PUBLIC AFFAIRS DETACHMENT | October 27, 2017

BOLESLAWIEC, Poland — Soldiers from the 82nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, celebrated European Language Day with Pol­ish students at I Liceum Ogólnokształcące, Bolesławiec, Poland, Oct. 16.

     The 82nd BEB is in Europe to support Op­eration Atlantic Resolve. Atlantic Resolve is a U.S. endeavor to fulfill NATO commitments by rotating U.S.-based units throughout the Euro­pean theater and training with NATO Allies and partners.

      Nine Soldiers temporarily stationed at Bolesławiec Camp were invited to the school for the students to have an opportunity to practice their English.

     Recordings and movie clips were specially prepared for the lessons but do not provide the experience that students gain from meet­ing speakers of the language, said Bogna Łasica, English teacher at the school.

       “It’s completely different when you learn something from a book and read about it, or even see a movie,” Łasica remarked. “When you meet a person, you just interact and it tremen­dously enhances the teaching and learning.”

       Being able to have English speakers creates more discussion for the class and even improves her teaching, she said.

      Authentic interactions are difficult and can even be a personal challenge, Łasica noted. What she hoped the students received from the expe­rience is to overcome reservations and develop confidence in themselves.

      “This was practice, so maybe next time they meet someone from abroad, they will be more open,” Łasica said. “They will be braver to start a conversation,”

       The class began with giving the Soldiers cookies decorated as American flags and lan­yards as a small souvenir.

      The students conducted a presentation, in­troducing the Soldiers to Poland and some of its history. Topics covered in the presentation were the founding of Bolesławiec, 20th century his­tory in Poland and the Polish school system.

      In return, one by one, Soldiers greeted the students by sharing their name, indicating their home state on a U.S. map, hobbies and future beyond the Army.

      Second Lt. Ethan Nichols, battalion adju­tant, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 82nd BEB, ended the presentation with includ­ing the unit’s history and experience in Europe.

       Formed into a giant circle around the room with inner and outer rings, students spoke with each other and the Soldiers in English on a given subject. After several minutes passed, the inner ring rotated to another person and a new topic is provided. Conversation topics included pets, the last holiday celebrated, favorite foods and favor­ite TV programs.

     After several rotations, the circle was then re­formed into smaller sections. This enabled the students to have a group conversation with no guided topic.

      Exchanges like these events allow Soldiers to get onto a common level with the people, said Pfc. Isreali Colon, a medic with HHC, 82nd BEB. He said going to places like schools and the town square to experience the culture's food and music creates a genuine experience and im­pression.

      He took an immediate interest in the Polish language and practices with the Polish medics he works with, Colon said.

      Learning the new language helps in commu­nicating with the patients and the medics, Colon said.

     Although he is still learning, Colon said his effort and eagerness to learn is what receives the most attention. Colon said he considers the op­portunity to learn the language in its authentic environment an opportunity too good to miss.

     “We're a guest in their country,” Colon re­marked. “We’re pushing toward reassuring our allies and developing that trust. We have to take that step forward. They've already given us entry here, we should make the best of it and show we're willing to go above and beyond what we need to in order to develop that relationship with them.”

     Nichols said he was surprised by the level of interest displayed by the Soldiers in interacting with Polish people.

     For Nichols, community interaction is a heavy emphasis both in personal life and in work. He was involved with the Boy Scouts of America and believes in small community orga­nizations.

     Involvement is about meeting others and getting interested in the right activities, Nichols said. While in Poland, he said the Soldiers can interact with the community, get involved and create a level of familiarity with the townspeople.

     “For any mission success, you have to have the support of the people,” Nichols said. “Whether it's the public of the region that you're in or the public back home.” The students have asked to schedule a tour around Bolesławiec for the Sol­diers, both to share their town and its history and to practice English again.

     “We’re hoping to make it a routine event be­cause it boosts the morale of our Soldiers and it keeps us involved in the community,” Nichols said. “We're constantly learning about the re­gion that we're in through these interactions.”