Language barriers are real, and they can affect how we behave. They can happen anywhere, even in the military and during wars. One notable example (written down in history books) is the way language differences affected service in the First World War.
Can you recall learning this in your History class? Don’t worry if you can’t. We will explore it in this article. Find the answer to, “In what way did language differences affect military service during World War I?” by continuing to read.
The First World War
Let’s start with the essentials of the First World War!
The First World War (WW1) lasted from July 28, 1914, to November 11, 1918. It occurred in the Middle East, Africa, and some parts of Asia. The two opposing sides were the Allied Powers and the Central Powers.
The latter consisted of France, Russia, and Britain, while the former included Austria-Hungary, Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria. Other involvements were:
- Allied Powers: Belgium, Japan, Montenegro, Serbia, plus:
- From 1916-1918: Asir, Armenia, Brazil, Bolivia, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Haiti, Hejaz, Hondura, Ecuador, Guatemala, Liberia, Nejd and Hasa, Nicaragua, Panama, and Uruguay.
- Central Powers: Colonies of Austria-Hungary, Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and Kingdom of Bulgaria – New Guinea, and German East Africa.
Total involvement amounted to about 68,176,000, of which 42,928,000 were on the Allied Powers’ side and 25,248,000 were on the Central Powers’.
This war is recorded in history as one of the deadliest wars of all time. The death toll was more than 14 million, with 9 million in combat and 5 million from hunger, disease, or bombardment.
The Triple Alliance ultimately won. However, widespread unrest remained throughout Europe and Asia, and the war was soon followed by a second one (WWII).
Fun Fact: This war was also called “the war to end all wars.” It reflected the then unparalleled devastation.
Language Differences in the First World War
Considering all the different countries involved, it is not too surprising that there were language differences.
In what way did language differences affect military service during World War I?
The central question is listed in exams with four multiple-choice options, as follows:
- Soldiers who did not speak English were given language training before entering combat.
- Soldiers who did not speak English were not allowed to serve in the military.
- Soldiers who did not speak English were given special exemptions from the draft.
- Soldiers who did not speak English were assigned to integrated combat units.
Of these, the right one to tick is A – Soldiers who did not speak English were given language training before entering combat.
This was to ensure that they would not encounter any language barriers when entering the fighting arena.
Communication is key, regardless of where it is. The military is no exception. Not being able to communicate or understand what others are communicating will entail problems. Hence, to be sure that soldiers will not have any issues that could interfere with their ability to fight and win, non-English speaking soldiers had language training ahead of time.
English was the agreed language because most military leaders and officers spoke English, and they were the ones that made the most important communication: commands. Hence, the most important emphasis in the English language training was command words and terminology.
Nonetheless, not all soldiers were fluent. Generally, they understood just enough English words to fight. This led to a unique development of “trench talk” where words and phrases came about from foreign variations during the war. Some vocabulary examples are plonker and skive.
So, as you have read, the answer to, “In what way did language differences affect military service during World War I?” is that non-English speaking soldiers had language training before they headed for combat. Hopefully, this has been helpful. Share this with other readers; who knows, they might want to know how language differences affected the military during the First World War too!
I am Everett Bledsoe, taking on the responsibility of content producer for The Soldiers Project. My purpose in this project is to give honest reviews on the gear utilized and tested over time. Of course, you cannot go wrong when checking out our package of information and guide, too, as they come from reliable sources and years of experience.