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CJTF-HOA troops learn "the language of love"

By Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald | | April 3, 2003

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Everyday, members of the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa strive to detect, disrupt and defeat transnational terrorists organizations in the Horn of Africa, but every Monday and Wednesday, a few troops are striving to improve their understanding of the French language. Referred to as "the language of love" by many people, French is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Coincidentally, French is also the official language of Djibouti.Since 1862, French forces have maintained a strong presence in the country, located at the southern entrance of the Red Sea.Now, elements of CJTF-HOA are based here, operating from an old French Foreign Legion post, Camp Lemonier, in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Cecile Coquel, the wife of a French officer stationed in Djibouti, began her job as a French teacher in January 2002."I started teaching French to some people at the U.S. Embassy. Then someone said that the soldiers at Camp Lemonier would really like to have classes," she said.The classes are geared toward beginning and advanced French speakers alike. Coquel added, "It's harder to teach beginning American French speakers because the accent and pronunciation is not something that comes natural to most of the students."It's a challenge for Coquel to help the student develop the ability to pronounce French words, but she said it just comes with the territory of being a teacher.One of Coquel's 10 students, Cpl. Francis C. Abel, a CJTF-HOA topographic intelligence specialist, said "I studied French for three years in high school. I've been attending Cecile's classes for roughly a month and a half." Abel, of Roslyn, Pa., admitted that he's not interested in learning French in order to "woo the ladies.""I have many facets that I cover in my job. By learning French, it will enable me to converse with the local personnel and have a better standing relationship with the locals," said Abel. Abel also said he's had to deal with many obstacles while learning French."I don't get to attend class as often as I would like, and it's hard trying to find time to study," he said.However, a lack of study time hasn't affected Abel's ability to learn.He explained, "It's so much easier to learn when a native French speaker is teaching because she can teach us more about the language, like modern vernacular, that the locals use. That helps to foster a better understanding of the people here."
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