When it comes to Afghanistan, winning the all-important “battle of hearts of minds” has proven to be quite difficult…especially when soldiers don’t speak the language. Now, a new, free iPhone app is available to help soldiers learn Dari, one of the local languages. The app, TripLingoDari, was recently profiled on CNN.com.
Dari, the Afghan dialect of Persian, is spoken by about half of the country’s inhabitants. Being able to speak it, even with a limited vocabulary, is a huge advantage for NATO soldiers. Lt. David Duffus of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland told CNN that the app has been a big help: “It helps break the ice with the locals… I can talk directly to the soldiers without needing an interpreter and when we are under fire that can save lives — ours and theirs.”
The app also help soldiers avoid the type of social faux pas that often happen when cultures collide, with a crash course on Afghan etiquette and customs. The app’s creator, Jesse Maddox, usually makes translation apps aimed at tourists. He told CNN.com, “Soldiers aren’t your typical traveler… but, they have the same problems that tourists do and perhaps even more pronounced…The ability to communicate can go far in delighting someone and getting them on your side… It can help make them no longer see you as a foreigner… but as a person.”
TripLingoDari is not a replacement for living, breathing interpreters and translators. The human touch is irreplaceable. Still, the app is designed to be as useful as possible, in that it does not require an Internet connection to work and the vocabulary is geared toward the needs of a soldier. A separate app is available for medical workers, as well.