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Secret Classrooms by Geoffrey Elliott
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Secret Classrooms

by Geoffrey Elliott

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First of all, I live waaaay across the ocean from these guys, and it wasn't easy to get a copy of SECRET CLASSROOMS, but I did manage it. I heard about the book from another writer - T.H.E. Hill, author of the recent SIGINT-themed novel, VOICES UNDER BERLIN. Most of the stuff in this book about British national service requirement (the draft)and how JSSL came into being was all new to me, and I found it most fascinating. But I think the real reason I related so easily to the descriptions of the native-speaker Russian teachers, the pressure to succeed, the frantic studying, the vocab drills and the work, work, work that went into learning this difficult language is simply because I've done all that. As a student at the Defense Language Institue in Monterey, CA, in the 70s I went through all the same stuff, so I found it very interesting hearing and "seeing" it all from the Brit point of view. I had my own "Liza Hill" in a lovely Russian lady named Lyubov Yakovleva, who spoke English with a Cambridge lilt, and not only did she correct our broken stumbling early attempts at speaking Russian, she also often corrected our English! Shukman and Elliott nailed the companionable yet highly competitive atmosphere of language school, a place where I made some lasting friends. The authors make much of how so many of the JSSL kursanty went on to distinguished careers in many fields, and I have found the same to be true of my friends from more than 30 years ago at DLI. Learning a language opens your mind and broadens your horizons. That may sound trite and corny, but it's true. Shukman, Elliott and their fellow kursanty mostly did okay for themselves. You can look 'em up. Reading SECRET CLASSROOMS made me wonder if any such book has been written about DLI. I am still writing down my own life, in comfortable slices. DLI is on my "to do" list. Watch for it. In the meantime, read SECRET CLASSROOMS. It is positively dense with interesting facts and information. I loved it. Well done, men. MOLODTSY! ( )
  TimBazzett | Apr 26, 2009 |
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The inside story of the Joint Services School for Linguists, lambasted by the Soviets as a 'spy school' and a major contribution to the study of the Cold War. Former pupils who trained there as Russian translators and interpreters include Jack Rosenthal, Alan Bennett and Dennis Potter.… (more)

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