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As a non-native Mandarin speaker, I have many faults: a glaring American accent, a severely limited vocabulary, and a fondness for Chinglish—a broken combination of Chinese and English. So when I was placed into Chinese 4, an accelerated program that would complete my language requirement in a ten week term, I immediately panicked. Although I felt prepared to attend the five 50 minute lectures that were reading and writing based, I dreaded the idea of speaking during drill. For those of you who may not know, Dartmouth students learn foreign languages through the Rassias Method, a technique that was coined by former Dartmouth professor John Rassias. Drills are designed to help students improve their pronunciation through repetition and exposure.

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On Tuesday, I sprinted to drill for the first time, profusely sweating as I slid into my seat at 7:45am. Our desks were arranged in a semicircle, and Lucy (my drill instructor) knelt in the middle so she could see everyone. After we all introduced ourselves, Lucy would say short phrases that the entire class would repeat. Then, she would snap her fingers, randomly select a student, and then the student would repeat the phrase back. If a student said the phrase or pitch incorrectly, Lucy would correct the student. Even though the concept seemed intimidating, we bonded over our shared struggles. What was even more impressive was that the entire session was conducted in Mandarin, with little to no English. It was gratifying to be able to comprehend and converse with Lucy in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. 

Me: "Peter, pretend to read this book." Professor passing us on the street: "Actually read the book!"

I'm very glad that I chose to challenge myself by taking a Mandarin course this term. Not only will I get to see my Mandarin accent improve, but I love talking to the other Chinese 4 people as we cram for quizzes during breakfast and study for tests in the library. For now, my only complaint is that 7:45am drill is way too early. 

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