Knocking down communication barriers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Knocking down communication barriers

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Saturday, members of the Vermont Army National Guard are spending the day in the classroom. The unit is learning Wolof, the majority language of tribes in Senegal, West Africa.

Troops are set to arrive there in about a month, to develop, educate, and train their military partners.

Vt. Army National Guard Lt. Col. John Guyette said, "Probably 98 percent of us have had one or two tours of duty either in Iraq or Afghanistan, we understand what it means to arrive on ground not understanding the language not understanding culture."

Over the last seven months, Norwich University has helped the soldiers immerse themselves in the culture through a federal grant program.

A community meal with Africans living in Vermont provides a less formal learning environment.

Fatou Badji, of Jericho, said, "To me, deep inside, it really means a lot to me being able to help out."

"To bring community members that are not necessarily in the guard to interact with them to help us be able to help with their home country that they came from, it's a large benefit for us." said Guyette.

"They're doing wonderful." said Badji.

The language is unique, and difficult, often blending in French and English. Soldiers are just learning the basics, hello, goodbye, and other essential phrases.

But those simple sayings can make a world of difference.

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