AFCLC, Air Force Culture and Language Center, Air Force's Global Classroom

LEAP Spotlight: 1st Lt. Emmanuel Parushev

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Emmanuel Parushev, French LEAP Scholar

I was raised in a bilingual household with my parents speaking Bulgarian to me as a child. I also lived in several foreign countries growing up, so I was exposed to different languages and cultures from an early age. It was from this early exposure to different languages and cultures that I developed an appreciation for language learning and began learning languages independently in high school. In addition to supplementing my high school Spanish class with extra Spanish-language media, I began expanding into Japanese and French, and later German, Italian, and other languages. 

I completed my bachelor’s degree in biological sciences at the University of California-Santa Barbara and my master’s in organic chemistry in the United Kingdom at University College London. After graduate school, I worked for several years as a chemist in the analytical testing industry where I tested pharmaceutical drugs and environmental samples for Federal Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulatory purposes. 

One of the companies I worked for had the DOD as one of their clients, and through networking and discussions with colleagues, I learned about the Air Force’s 61C (Chemist) career field. I applied for Officer Training School, and after commissioning, I was assigned to the Air Force Research Laboratory where I have worked as a research scientist for the last three years. 

There was an application callout that was circulated by my squadron’s executive officer for the Language Enabled Airman Program. As a self-proclaimed “language nerd,” I was very interested in contributing to the program’s goals and participating in the opportunities available through LEAP. I particularly appreciated the holistic ethos of language acquisition adopted by LEAP. The emphasis on continual reinforcement of languages, such as through regular and repeating eMentors and Language Intensive Training Events, is an aspect of language acquisition I resonate with: there is no “end date” to improving language knowledge.

Through LEAP, I have participated in two eMentors – one for Japanese and one for French – and one LITE. Each experience was excellent and improved my language capability and confidence in the languages significantly. For the LITE, which was for French, I was immersed in a French-only environment for an entire month. As part of the program, the participants were required to write essays, give presentations, and discuss issues relevant to geopolitics in francophone regions (especially Western Africa). By the end of the program, I had significantly improved in all four language modalities – speaking, reading, writing, and listening. 

As a chemist, LEAP has enabled me to be able to read foreign-language science articles in their original languages. This is helpful because foreign articles are often published in their original languages before being translated into English. Additionally, there can be differences in translation, and sometimes the meaning or intent of the author(s) can be altered depending on the translator. Being able to access those articles in their original languages keeps me as up-to-date as possible on state-of-the-art scientific research and helps me to contribute to group discussions during weekly team meetings.

In addition to those practical applications, LEAP has contributed significantly to my personal and job satisfaction. LEAP has enabled me to combine my language-learning hobby with my professional development in a practical yet not overbearing way. Through the LITE and eMentors, I have been able to meet and learn from some truly outstanding colleagues throughout the Air Force who share a similar passion for languages.

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