Tactical Iraqi – how learning a foreign language can be fun on a computer


February 10, 2006


W. Lewis Johnson


University of Southern California, Information Sciences Institute


Can learning a foreign language on a computer be fun!? You bet!

Dr. Johnson will be presenting on his innovative language tool Tactical Iraqi. It is game based on the Unreal engine and a language lab with state of the art AI, modeling and voice recognition. According to the Economist, when the US reentered Iraq only a few soldiers spoke Arabic. This tool has been shown to improve US military outreach efforts and hopefully will be provided to civilians as well.

Tactical Iraqi is a computer-based, self-paced, learning program that in about 80 hours teaches English-speaking people totally unfamiliar with Iraqi Arabic how to speak enough to accomplish tasks and missions in Arabic. Tactical Iraqi quickly teaches how to communicate effectively with Iraqis in daily situations by providing sufficient knowledge and confidence in both spoken Iraqi Arabic and cultural nuances like gestures that are vital aspects of building trust in communication. It minimizes learners’ anxiety, embarrassment and confusion by letting them learn and practice at the computer at their own pace. Its game-like design keeps learners interested and motivated even after hours of intensive practice.

Tactical Iraqi consists of a combination of advanced technologies – including artificial intelligence, interactive-animation simulations based on computer games, and speech recognition – and advanced task-based educational methodologies. Tactical Iraqi provides a practical alternative for people who do not take resident courses, or who find conventional classroom language instruction to be boring and ineffective. These instructor-led and self-paced methods are usually reserved for active duty personnel with a high aptitude for language because they require substantial commitments of time. Tactical Iraqi is the second language in the Tactical Language and Culture Training Systems series produced by Tactical Language Training LLC in collaboration with the University of Southern California. The first language, Tactical Levantine, is currently under evaluation at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Tactical Iraqi is currently in use at Camp Pendleton, at the Marine Corps Expeditionary Warfare School, and at other military installations in the United States and in Iraq. Other languages, including Tactical Pashto, are currently under development.


W. Lewis Johnson

Dr. Johnson is a Senior Project Leader at USC / Information Sciences Institute and Research Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southern California (USC). Lewis Johnson received his A.B. degree in Linguistics in 1978 from Princeton University, and his Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from Yale University in 1985. He is secretary and past president of the Artificial Intelligence in Education Society, associate editor of the journal Automated Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems, was program co-chair First International Joint Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems, and program co-chair of the 2003 Intelligent User Interfaces conference. When not working with computers, Lewis sings professionally in concert and on stage. He is a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. His wife Kim and he produce and sell 100% Kona Coffee on their coffee farm in Hawaii.