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What is the Rassias Method?

A: Female student holding a Dartmouth pennant posing for portrait

The Rassias method is a language learning technique developed by former Dartmouth professor John Rassias in 1964. All language departments at Dartmouth have adopted this method because it makes students comfortable in a foreign language in a relatively short amount of time! 

The Rassias method consists of three components: language classes, drill sessions, and a language study abroad program. After completing two to three courses in a specific foreign language, students can participate in a language study abroad program. By studying abroad, students get the opportunity to increase their fluency further and fully immerse themselves in the culture tied to that language. Although it is not required to study abroad as part of the Rassias method, many Dartmouth students look forward to the experience. 

But what makes the Rassias method unique is the drill sessions. Drill sessions are intended to help students with their pronunciation through fast-paced activities focused on repetition. During the fall term of my freshman year, I attended drill sessions for my Chinese 4 class. My drill class met three times a week for an hour and was led by Eileen, an upperclassman fluent in Chinese. At first, drill sessions were quite intimidating for me. After teaching us how to pronounce a phrase, Eileen would randomly choose people in our session to repeat it. If we got it wrong, she would explain how to pronounce it correctly and ask us to go again. Sometimes, we had to do improv scenes and incorporate the vocabulary we learned during that drill session. Once I got used to the format of drill, I started to have fun. My drill class had less than ten students, so we all bonded really quickly and were supportive of each other. When the term was over, I realized how much my pronunciation had improved through these drill sessions. The Rassias method is an integral aspect of learning a foreign language at Dartmouth. By wholly embracing it, Dartmouth students like me have seen their fluency dramatically improve within only a single term. 

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