"Everything is in English"

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Quotation is at 1:43 / 2:59; article below the break.

"Ukrainian Army Uses New Caesar Long-Range Howitzer Supplied By France"

A Ukrainian artillery unit in the Donbas region has been quickly getting up to speed with the latest long-range artillery import, the French Caesar howitzer. The self-propelled 155mm gun can hit targets up to 38 kilometers away and is highly mobile. One soldier told RFE/RL on June 8 that the system was easy to use but the biggest problem was the language barrier — "It’s foreign equipment, everything is in English."

How could that happen?  Why did that happen?


Selected readings

[h.t.:  William Triplett]



  1. David Marjanović said,

    June 12, 2022 @ 7:59 am

    How could what happen – that the instructions to French equipment are in English?

    English is the international language. Everything for generic export, especially to destinations that weren't planned ahead, is labeled in English.

  2. Cervantes said,

    June 12, 2022 @ 10:09 am

    Yes. In fact I would expect that Ukrainians are more likely to understand English than French.

  3. Gregory Kusnick said,

    June 12, 2022 @ 10:44 am

    For me the curious thing linguistically is that a truck with a gun mounted on it is described as a self-propelled gun.

  4. Scott P. said,

    June 12, 2022 @ 12:16 pm

    A truck with a gun mounted on it is called in English, ironically, 'en portée' — though this doesn't quite seem to be that, as the gun is not in the truck but has its own wheels which touch the ground when the vehicle is in motion.

  5. mg said,

    June 12, 2022 @ 1:27 pm

    Part of the language barrier is likely the different alphabet, which would be a problem whether the instructions were in English or French. Ukrainian uses a Cyrillic alphabet.

  6. DMcCunney said,

    June 12, 2022 @ 3:24 pm

    How and why could the instructions be on English? What *else* might they be in? As mentioned previously, English is the international language.

    I had a fascinating conversation in April at a science fiction convention with a writer there promoting a new book. But while he had been in the US for years and spoke idiomatic English, he was been born and raised in the eastern Ukraine, and his birth tongue was Russian. He commented that he could sort of converse with a Ukrainian speaker, in the way someone with a couple of semesters of Spanish instruction in school might talk to a native Spaniard, Beyond simple stuff, things broke down fast.

    So even if you wanted native language instructions for military gear, which native language might you use?

    He also commented that the separatists in the Donbas region were not pro Russian, despite it being their birth tongue. They were anti Ukrainian. The disputed territories had been independent states in the Ottoman days, and they want to be independent again, and not part of another country. Their dream seemed to be autonomous states sharing a border with Russia, and things like "most favored nation" status in trade agreements. Just how independent they might be if Putin succeeded in "liberating" them is a question I suspect some of them have reexamined, but those against becoming part of Russia itself at this point have either gone elsewhere or are keeping their mouths carefully shut.

  7. Frans said,

    June 12, 2022 @ 3:34 pm


    How and why could the instructions be on English? What *else* might they be in? As mentioned previously, English is the international language.

    The how and why would simply be that this is how it's always been since 1949. NATO does happen to have two official languages after all, though I don't know how that translates to military equipment.

  8. Chester Draws said,

    June 12, 2022 @ 10:10 pm

    All artillery with built in transport is "self-propelled". It's been that way for many, many decades.

    SPG covers everything from artillery in a tank body to a gun on the back of a truck.

    The alternative is "towed".

  9. Gregory Kusnick said,

    June 13, 2022 @ 9:47 am

    "Gun truck" is apparently also in use, and according to Ngram Viewer seems to be giving "self-propelled gun" a run for its money since about 2000.

    What struck me as curious is that the gun itself plays no role in moving the vehicle; it's the beneficiary, not the provider, of propulsion.

    Contrast this with cranes, where "crane truck" seems to be the prevailing term of art, with "self-propelled crane" considerably less frequent, even though in that case the same engine does power both the crane and the wheels.

  10. V said,

    June 13, 2022 @ 9:07 pm

    As Chester Daws said "self-propelled artillery" refers to any kind of of artilerrery that is not moved from one place to another without being towed by a vehicle that is not an integral part of a whole unit: horses or a truck that is not designed to move artillery.

  11. V said,

    June 13, 2022 @ 9:12 pm

    "Self-propelled" is used as an antonym of "towed" in this case.

  12. BM said,

    June 14, 2022 @ 4:58 am

    Amusingly, "gun truck" doesn't refer to artillery guns at all. It's usually a truck with one or more heavy machine guns mounted on it. AFAIK, the term dates back to the Vietnam War when they had to improvise escort vehicles for convoys.

  13. Victor Mair said,

    June 15, 2022 @ 12:19 am

    For Ukrainian troops, a need arises: Javelin customer service

    The powerful antitank weapons have come to symbolize U.S. involvement in Ukraine, but critics say the Pentagon’s support service is lacking

    By Alex Horton
    June 14, 2022 at 5:00 a.m. EDT


    The Ukrainians had an urgent problem. Their Javelin missile launchers — sophisticated, finicky gear each costing six figures — were inoperable and no one in their unit could fix them.

    They sought help from two Americans, who engineered a fix for one by cannibalizing electrical components from a video game controller, said Mark Hayward, a U.S. Army veteran and volunteer trainer. The others, he said, were thought to be broken until it was discovered that the user instructions had gotten gummed up in Google Translate. Hayward recalled the episode with profound frustration that the Pentagon, which has rushed more than 5,000 Javelins to Ukraine, hasn’t done more to ensure that those battling Russian forces have help when such needs arise.

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