PLTCE Language Course Helps Diplomats ‘Say the Right Thing at the Right Time’
By Christine June
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (Aug. 22, 2018) – Everyday, Sofiko Balanchivadze writes and analyses executive documents and news on bilateral issues for eight partner nations for the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Georgia.
She does all this work in English, which is not her native language.
Balanchivadze and seven other diplomats from Georgia, Republic of Albania, Republic of Kosovo and Ukraine attended the three-week Language for Diplomacy course at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies from July 30 to Aug. 16.
“This course helps Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials to develop highly-polished, executive-level communication skills directly related to their professional English language needs,” said Peggy Garza, chair of the English Language Programs Department for the Marshall Center’s Partner Language Training Center Europe.
Balanchivadze said that in her job she deals with different types of sensitive documents.
“It’s very important to say the right thing at the right time with the right wording,” said Balanchivadze, who has been in the diplomatic core for nine years. “Wording in diplomacy is the main tool that you use every day in your job, and if you are speaking or writing in a language other than your native tongue, you should always work on it so that you are always ready for different situations.”
During the graduation ceremony, Keith Wert, the PLTCE director, said that this course was a unique language course in that it focuses solely on diplomats.
This unique language course came about during a visit of the Kosovo Diplomatic Academy staff at the Marshall Center in December 2014. In the following July, the Marshall Center held its first Language for Diplomats for six members of the Republic of Kosovo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The second course, which was held in 2016, was also only for diplomats from Kosovo, but in 2017, PLTCE began having the course twice a year and opened it up to participants from Georgia, Ukraine and Albania.
“This was a result of the feedback we received from the participants of the first two courses,” said Roxane Harrison, program manager for PLTCE’s English Language Programs Department.
She added that the contacts from Rhodes and Dr. Valbona Zeneli, director of the Marshall Center’s Black Sea and Eurasia Program, at MFAs and diplomatic academies were instrumental to expanding participation to other nations.
Dr. Matt Rhodes, professor of National Security Studies and director of Central and South Eastern Europe at the Marshall Center, and Garza developed the curriculum for this course over the years.
Participants complete tasks which further their competence in English along different dimensions, such as targeting various audiences both orally and in writing, and analyzing written and spoken English from various sources.
This language instruction is augmented by lectures on security-related topics conducted by Marshall Center professors and staff, hands-on media training, and an introduction to the Marshall Center’s research databases.
Participants are taught strategic communication skills such as framing an argument, crafting and delivering a message, how to do presentations, negotiations and panel discussions, and verbal briefs on policy.
They also learn how to analyze based on data and synthesizing information from various sources and professional terminology for defense, security and diplomacy.
“The course is flexible and tailored to the participants,” Harrison said.
There are now 48 Language for Diplomacy alumni from four countries.
The next Language for Diplomacy course will be October 2018, and in 2019, two additional courses are planned.
“I see this (course) as a small contribution from the Marshall Center and PLTCE to enhance the Euro-Atlantic relationship, which I firmly believe all your countries belong to,” Wert said during the graduation ceremony.