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Cultural Consultancy for Ministry of Defence - Case Study

Client - Ministry of Defence
Service - Cultural Consultancy
Language - Colloquial Dari
Location - Brunei
Sector - Military

In all situations, a degree of cultural sensitivity is as important as linguistic fluency. In certain situations however, a lack of cultural sensitivity can have disastrous consequences. In the armed forces in particular, individuals often find themselves in highly confrontational positions. In such events, employing cultural sensitivity can make a huge difference when trying to assert control over a potentially volatile situation.

We were contacted by the Ministry of Defence to provide a cultural consultancy programme for UK troops prior to their deployment in Afghanistan. The aim was to give soldiers a background on local culture and basic language skills so as not to alienate themselves from the community.

Our cultural consultancy team arranged lessons in colloquial Dari to be held in Brunei. These lessons consisted of teaching soldiers how to greet and address people, who to approach and who to avoid and matters that should and shouldn't be spoken about.

Role play scenarios were acted out to see how the troops might react in certain situations. One of our linguists describes one of these exercises:

"Some of us were instructed to play the part of the interpreters, but most of us played civilians, and we were asked to dress in Burkha. We were asked to imagine how we would react if one of the soldiers were to take away a member of our family. The soldiers then had to use the interpreter to calm us down, and explain what was happening. We had been informed that some of these sessions could be deemed disturbing, but the soldiers made it fun."

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