How can 2+ Russian linguists in Speaking be produced in 47 weeks at the Defense Language Institute?

Tatiana Hursky, Defense Language Institute

At the Defense Language Institute (DLI) teachers have recently been tasked by the United States government to produce level 2+ (according to the Interagency Roundtable Proficiency Guidelines) linguists in the four branches of the United States military in speaking in forty seven weeks of classroom instruction. Earlier students were required to only achieve a minimum level of 1+ in speaking. Educated native speakers typically have proficiency levels of 4 or 5. It is clear that many may perceive this to be a daunting and perhaps impossible task. In this paper I will examine present academic, administrative and military factors that have influenced the current speaking program at DLI. This will be followed by an in depth proposal for creating a Russian language program that could create 2+ Russian linguists.

In order to fully understand the problems facing teachers at the DLI, I will first provide an overview of the present teaching system within the Russian program at the Defense Language Institute. Then, I will discuss the mission of the DLI, the profile of the student body and the profile of the teaching staff and administration. By understanding these aspects it will be possible to discuss and analyze the challenges that both teachers and students face in obtaining a 2+ proficiency level in speaking.

I will discuss academic issues, such as: student/teacher motivation, teacher/student preparation, curriculum content, size of teaching staff, class sizes, teaching styles, the nature of team teaching, nature of homework assignments and quality and pertinence of the teaching material. Administrative issues that will be discussed include the following: contact instruction hours for students and teachers; syllabi; exams and textbooks. Military issues that will be discussed include: the nature of a joint civilian-military teaching program; students’ daily military duties and responsibilities; and military job requirements.

This paper examines how the DLI may increase the number of students that will achieve a 2+ proficiency rating in Russian speaking at the end of forty seven weeks of instruction.