Languages @ Dartmouth
Every Dartmouth student graduates knowing at least two languages. That is because one of the Liberal Arts requirements for graduation is taking at least three introductory classes to a language, or proving knowledge of a language, either from using it at home or mastering it some other way. I fulfilled this requirement as soon as I got into Dartmouth: as a Brazilian, I am a native speaker of Portuguese (not Brazilian!!) However, as I got to know how languages are taught at Dartmouth, I couldn't help but experience it for myself. And not only did I complete Chinese 1 through 3, but I also spent a term in China in an intensive learning experience! I hope to show you why learning a language at Dartmouth had me so enthralled today.
First, the Rassias method. For those who don't know, Professor Rassias was a Dartmouth professor who developed a revolutionary language learning method. It is based on immersion on the language, with professors speaking mostly, if not only, the learned language. It also involves getting students speaking, often placing them in situations which mimic possible real-world scenarios. The maximum expression of the Rassias Method at Dartmouth is the drill. Drills happen for every language; every morning, learners get together in a group of around six, plus a native speaker who is an employed undergraduate. The native speaker, who is only allowed to speak their native language in class, calls on students to repeat phrases, or make phrases of their own based on set patterns, or even to have a dialogue with another student. This is a very safe environment: everyone makes mistakes, and the drill instructor is quick to correct them, which is immensely helpful. Although waking up early either every day or every other day is a bit hard at times, the benefits of drill are too great to measure!
As far as classes, they vary a lot by department: some are daily (Chinese, Arabic, and some others), while many are every other day. What is constant is that the professors are highly capable, and also very demanding. This is very good, as it makes students practice frequently and learn fast. Something many students (yours truly included) do is take the introductory classes (1 through 3) for a language freshman year, and go on a study abroad their sophomore year to take the second year of a language. This is a great way to get a minor, and also one of the coolest experiences you can have at Dartmouth!
I encourage you to read some of my older posts, especially while I was in China. They will give you an idea of what studying a language can be like!
All the best,