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Oct 29, 2012 10:06 AM by Samantha Ptashkin

UA ROTC students learn Arabic to prepare for deployment

TUCSON - It's not easy, but University of Arizona Junior Ian Marble is learning Arabic, one page at a time.

"I love it. It's a lot of fun," Marble says.

The Middle Eastern and North African studies major is one of 13 ROTC students learning the language through with "PROJECT GO", a Department of Defense Initiative. "The goal is to help these future officers be better prepared in terms of language and culture for the so-called critical languages," says UA Arabic Professor Sonia Shiri.

For a couple hours each week, Marble receives one-on-one tutoring. "It just really has brought me into a different world essentially," Marble says.

He learns to read and write in Arabic. He also learns about the culture. "Greet appropriately, be polite, be capable of communicating all the basic needs," Shiri says.

"I think the biggest thing it will help me with is just making that connection with people wherever I'm going," Marble says.

Right now "PROJECT GO" is in 25 schools nationwide. In some schools, students learn other languages, like Chinese or Russian.

It's not quite the physical training our military members are used to, but Marble, who hopes to one day be an Air Force pilot, says it's just as important. "I want to be the best officer I can be, the best worker I can be, and this is just another step in the process," Marble says.

The DOD issued the University of Arizona a three-year grant for "PROJECT GO". It helps pay for tutor salaries and student scholarships.

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