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Drill Group

At Dartmouth, every student is required to meet a language credit requirement. This can be done in a number of ways—you can take a placement exam your first-year fall, use high school credits or, as most students do, take language classes at Dartmouth.

Language classes have two components. First is the traditional classroom instruction taught by a professor where you learn to read, write, and speak; the second is "drill," a 50-minute session taught by a Teaching Assistant, aka Drill Instructor, focusing strictly on speaking and listening. This combination makes it so students are forced to practice the language consistently throughout the term, and is really fun!

My first encounter with drill was actually when I became a Spanish Drill Instructor my first-year spring. It was taught over Zoom due to remote learning then; however, the concept is the same. The drill instructor will read a sentence, state a rule for modifying said sentence, snap their fingers, and pick a student to say the answer. There are many more rules to the exercise but, in short, all students get to participate and have to think of their answers on the spot—no notes, no Google Translate. 

My first encounter with drill in-person was when I took French my junior year. Zoom was good, but in-person was even better! My drill instructors moved around the room and used hand gestures to help us understand each sentence before answering. They kept the pace of the exercises fast, forcing students to actively listen throughout the session—you could be called to answer at any point, so you gotta pay attention!

The fast pace and on-the-spot nature of drill mimics casual conversation and is a great way to practice skills learned in the classroom. Plus, each drill section is usually seven students or less, so you can get really close with your group by the end of the term. In fact, the picture above is of my French 1 drill!

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