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One of the cornerstones of a Dartmouth education is our foreign language requirement, which specifies that all students must either 1) take the equivalent of (usually) 3 foreign language classes or 2) test out of the requirement by demonstrating proficiency in a language other than their native one. This requirement is just one of several distributive requirements that the college has, which you can find here.

Dartmouth offers a number of languages, some of which include Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese. The sequences are designed to get you relatively comfortable with the language once completing the requirement. If you've taken language classes in high school, you also have the option to test out of certain levels and start in a more advanced class. These placement tests will occur online the summer before your freshman year. I am currently completing my French sequence. I've only ever taken the classes in the virtual "Zoom" setting, but I hope I can still offer some bit of insight into how the classes work!

All of my French classes are conducted in French, not English. I expect that certain other languages (such as Italian and Spanish) operate the same way because there are so many cognates between English and those languages. Units are centered around specific cultural themes, such as environmental issues or overseas French territories, and within each unit we learn a number of grammatical constructs. During the remote format, my French class is operating as a flipped classroom, meaning that we learn material on our own and come together during the week to converse and practice what we learned. There are two classes per week and one individual check-in with the professor. We also have two drill sections per week.

All languages, except for Latin and Greek, require something called "drill," which is based off of the Rassias Method. The Rassias Method is a language learning method formulated by Professor John Rassias in the 1970s. Depending on the language and level, you may meet anywhere from four times a week to two times a week for fifty minutes. During drill, your drill instructor (who is usually another Dartmouth student who speaks the language natively), will lead you through grammar exercises and transformations. It is meant to supplement whatever you're learning in class so that you develop the ability to think on-the-spot instead of relying on pen-and-paper.

There are usually two categories: substitutions or transformations, with transformations being the more difficult version. Your drill instructor will say a phrase and then give the thing that you will substitute into the sentence (or transform). The instructor will then snap their fingers and then point at someone to complete the exercise.


TA: "I am happy. Tired," *snaps and points to student*

STUDENT: "I am tired."

TA: "The students are young. The students watch the movie." *snaps and points to student*

STUDENT: "The students who watch the movie are young."


Drill is definitely a huge part of the Dartmouth experience and has made my French accent in particular improve so quickly, not to mention my comfort and personal confidence in speaking the language. If you have the ability to, I definitely recommend taking a language while in college even if you've already fulfilled the requirement because languages are gateways to a bigger world in which you can talk to and learn about so many other cultures! 

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