Bilingual officer cadets: a catalyst to Canadian training in Ukraine



Despite the fact that the CAF is able to count on a handful of multilingual soldiers deployed as linguists for ROTO 1 of Operation UNIFIER, the troops face a challenge in their capacity building efforts: the barrier created by a third language.

The language barrier between the mostly French-speaking soldiers of 2nd Canadian Division and their training audience is yet another hurdle that the troops face on a daily basis in an effort to pass on their knowledge and get the job done.

“Translation becomes a serious factor when you consider that every lesson and every instruction needs to be given twice, taking twice as long in an already condensed schedule,” said Major Pat Cantin, Training Company commander. “Many of our instructors have to formulate their own thoughts in their second language before it is translated to a third (Ukrainian). This means they have to be crystal clear if they want the information to reach the audience ‘intact.’”

Fortunately, the Ukrainian partners quickly understood the importance of having native speakers assist in the training delivery. The issue was raised through the Canadian Embassy and in the end, the Ukrainians quickly put a winning solution in place: using young officer cadets with English language abilities to help with the training. Seventy-five cadets from the National Army Academy, the Air Force University and the Odessa Military Academy have been sent to assist in the training blocks at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre.

“The officer cadets have been paired with our Canadians and help to reduce the instructor to student ratio,” says Sergeant Yann Gauthier, commander for the medical training. “With their help, we were able to split the trainees into smaller groups which definitely increased the quality of instruction and the duration trainees can spend practicing. This is true for both the medical training and for the small team tactics.”

The 55-day exposure to experienced Canadian and Ukrainian soldiers is an eye-opening adventure for the Ukrainian officer cadets that have volunteered. It gives them a chance to practice their English while being involved in this effort to build capacity within their military forces. Many of these future combat arms officers gain meaningful experience in their field by watching and learning from experienced Ukrainian and Canadian soldiers and officers.

The linguistic abilities of these young Ukrainians serves to facilitate Canadian training, allowing Canada to help Ukraine achieve its objectives to increase stability and security in the country.

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