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Lunch with a side of lingo

An instructor teaches a group of participants about proper Cantonese pronunciations during a Lunch Lingo meeting at the Landing Zone at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 12, 2012. Lunch Lingo is a free daily lunch-time language seminar for Airmen at any skill level. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nigel Sandridge) (Released)

An instructor teaches a group of participants about proper Cantonese pronunciations during a Lunch Lingo meeting at the Landing Zone at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 12, 2012. Lunch Lingo is a free daily lunch-time language seminar for Airmen at any skill level. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nigel Sandridge) (Released)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Let's see if you've heard this joke:

A person who speaks three languages is considered trilingual.

A person who speaks two languages is considered bilingual.

What do you call someone who speaks one language?

American.

While the assessment may seem unfair, the challenge of learning another language may seem so daunting many shy away from it

However, Airmen can watch foreign films, listen to language training tapes and learn from guest teachers during Lunch Lingo at the Hurlburt Field Landing Zone Community Center movie room weekdays Monday through Friday.

Lunch Lingo is a free daily lunchtime language seminar for Airmen at any level, from those who are interested in learning a language to those who are simply brushing up on their skills.

"We're not creating a school," said Robert Scott, director of the Landing Zone Community Center. "All we are is a place to go for a social gathering spot with a language emphasis."

Lunch Lingo offers a different language every weekday including French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin) and Arabic.

"I've had nine people come in to watch 'Hamlet' in Russian, and a couple of ladies the other day were watching 'The Fantastic Four' in Spanish," Scott said.

In addition to being able to watch movies and listen to tapes, native speakers of the languages volunteer their time to come and converse.

"The original idea was to come into a relaxing environment and talk with a native speaker instead of learning in a strict classroom setting," said Lilly Woods, native speaker of Mandarin and base library technician. "This is an opportunity to polish off language skills or build on those skills."

Scott and Woods feel negative perceptions of education may draw a person away from something that boasts learning, but they both agree people should give this opportunity a shot.

"Social setting instead of classroom formality is what we're trying to do here," Woods said.

Scott believes this is a chance for Airmen to expand their cultural horizons in an Air Force that has global reach.

"Being in the military is a unique opportunity to visit places that you wouldn't see in the civilian job world and have a chance for a cultural exchange," Scott said, "language is the key to that."

Providing something for the people to come together locally and will benefit them personally and professionally is the ultimate goal of Lunch Lingo.

"Just being in an atmosphere with another language gives you a sense of community," Scott said.

While the Lunch Lingo program is still in its infancy, the team is looking to build on the input of the community.

"We've got a long way to go and we're open to ideas," Scott said.

For more information about Lunch Lingo or if you have any suggestions, contact Robert Scott at 847-3366 or visit www.myhurlburt.com