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Online Spanish classes help air advisors maintain language proficiency during COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Liliana Moreno
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members of the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron are finding innovative ways to satisfy air advisor requirements while teleworking due to COVID-19. 

The 571st MSAS is a language-enabled group who assesses, advises and assists Latin American and Caribbean countries to enhance their airpower capabilities while assisting the Air Force’s enduring mission to build partnership capacity.

In order to maintain their proficiency as air advisors, the 571st MSAS developed some unique online classroom opportunities to enhance the unit’s language capabilities while overcoming obstacles in their routine training due to COVID-19.

“Since traveling classes and in-country engagements with partner nations were our primary ways of completing cultural hour requirements, we had to adjust and provide more resources to our members to stay up to date and be able to continue learning,” said Staff Sgt. Christian Ramos Claudio, 571st MSAS command language program manager.

Just last week, Ramos along with 1st Lt. Phillip Resnick, 571st MSAS commander’s executive officer, hosted the unit’s first-ever virtual Spanish cultural class. Squadron members along with family members were invited to participate in what will be a weekly virtual class.

During the first meeting, the group read an article titled “Panama contra el COVID-19”, which explained how Panama was controlling the spread of COVID-19. As part of the class, the group interpreted the article’s intent and voiced their opinions. Those attending the virtual class were asked to download a copy of the article ahead of time to ease with translations, key vocabulary and to take notes to be discussed during the class.

“Language is more than just words, it is a cultural exchange. The ability to know and understand other cultures, helps our unit to strengthen relationships with other nations,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Colon Matos, 571st MSAS air advisor and class student. “Even though our Spanish lessons have transitioned to online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MSAS can now take advantage of this new virtual platform for future mission training.”

Air advisors come into the squadron with a wide range of Spanish capabilities. Some enter as fluent native speakers, while others come in with little-to-no previous knowledge of the language. However, through Spanish conversation groups, all squadron members get to improve some part of their language skills.  Members with lower abilities in Spanish are able to practice the basics and learn basic vocabulary, while the more experienced speakers are able to improve their technical vocabulary and improve their translating skills.

“Our discussion groups serve multiple purposes,” said Resnick. “Through reading, listening, and talking in Spanish about current events in Latin America, we are able to keep our language skills sharp while also staying up-to-date on the current political and military environment in the region, which allows us to be culturally sensitive when we go out on our missions.”