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Yo no pensé que aprendería español en Dartmouth, ¡pero ya casi he terminado con español tres!

I didn't think I would learn Spanish at Dartmouth, but I'm almost done with Spanish 3!

When I was going through orientation, I learned that Dartmouth created a new policy for the class of 2026 and onwards regarding the language requirement. Before the class of 2026, students had the option to be exempted from language classes altogether through prior coursework or a proof of fluency through a language test. But starting with the class of 2026, students now must take at least one language-related class. Depending on a student's level of fluency, they will take one to three classes. You can read more about it here! So, I discovered that I would have to take a language at Dartmouth, whether I wanted to or not.

I've had a long path with language; having spoken Korean with my family in my home, I had never really felt the desire to learn any more languages and found myself more interested in other subjects. But, with languages as a requirement in my high school, I experimented. I took French in middle school and Latin in high school. They were fine. I enjoyed them, but I never found the excitement or feeling of progress that I wanted to feel with learning something new. In middle school, I found reciting numbers forwards and backwards in French every day a little slow. In high school, I didn't bother to learn much of the vocabulary, leading me to slow down in my translations, looking up every word translation in the Latin-English dictionary. I was a little disappointed that I had to take another language in college, thinking that I'd be "wasting class slots" with it. Would the third time be the charm? Even if it meant I had to take three courses over three terms, I decided on a fresh start and chose Spanish as my language.

Walking into the classroom was a different experience than the other classes I had; it wasn't quite a discussion-based seminar, much less a wide lecture hall. In a small room taken up by rolling desk chairs with tablet arms, participation was the core nature of the class. I had never been in a class where the students talked so much, testing out new grammar concepts and pronunciations. As a student who wasn't too keen on raising her hand in class, it was a little intimidating.

As the terms went on, I found more to appreciate about the language class.

The language class meets often: 50-minute classes four times a week, and an extra 45-minute drill session three times a week where a student instructor gives speaking exercises that test us on vocabulary and grammar. It may have felt like a drag, but seeing my classmates so often was very helpful for my freshman year. It allowed me to get to know peers in a time when I didn't know anyone, and some of the people I met in my fall Spanish class are some of my closest friends today.

The different nature of the class itself was refreshing when taken with my other classes; I feel very lucky that I've been able to balance my first-year course load with a science class, language class, and writing-based class for each term. The variety of assignments and thinking made classes more exciting.

The fast pace has been one of my favorite parts—in the effort to get students nearly fluent in three courses, what would have been three to four years of material in high school is condensed into one. Even if it is challenging, I find it more rewarding. Looking back at the beginning of the year, I've come a long way when it comes to learning Spanish. The pace also helped me adjust to the general approach to studying at Dartmouth; there's no time to rest when learning and understanding new material. When one concept is grasped, it's on to the next one! (Last week in Spanish 3, my classmates and I were reeling from learning a new verb tense every class! We had a good time, though.)

a picture of a graph paper with notes from Spanish class
My most recent page of notes from Spanish class!

And finally, being able to make mistakes by participating in the drill sessions and in class has been a welcome shift to my mindset. Making mistakes is natural when learning a language (or anything), and I find myself more comfortable with raising my hand and asking questions/giving answers than when I began the year—after all, the professors are there to help you improve!

I wonder how my Dartmouth experience so far would have been different without a language class, and despite my reluctance about it when I began, I wouldn't have wanted to "waste" my classes any other way.

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