Directed Independent Language Study (DILS)
Directed Independent Language Study (DILS) is designed to allow students with valid academic or professional goals to study languages not offered at the University of Miami through traditional classroom instruction. The goal of the Program is to assist students to rapidly gain a sense of comfort using a language they would otherwise not be able to learn, and to promote their ability to easily adapt and respond to new linguistic and concomitant cultural environments. Flexibility is one of the key components of the Program, responding to the students’ language needs and language acquisition capabilities.
An individual language program is based on a carefully structured relationship between the student, a native speaker of the target language (Language Partner or LP), appropriate instructional materials, and an outside examiner. Students in the program are expected to adhere to a daily schedule of work on their own using the designated instructional materials; they are scheduled to meet in practice sessions with their Language Partners for one hour twice a week. They are tested at least once a semester by an outside examiner, a qualified language pedagogue at another institution of higher learning where they specialize in the target language.
There is no ‘teacher’ in the program, as that term is understood in other instructional contexts. It is central to the success of the program that students understand what is expected of them in an independent, albeit structured, learning environment: they must be self-directed, self-disciplined, and must be willing to assume responsibility for their language learning.
Students wishing to pursue language study in DILS must submit an application stating their goals and objectives. The DILS Program Director identifies appropriate curricular materials, Language Partners and qualified examiners for students whose applications are seriously considered. Only those applications will be approved for which adequate materials, Language Partners, and testing can be arranged. Since establishing the availability of these resources takes time, DILS applications must be submitted in the semester preceding the one for which study is proposed.
Only students in good academic standing should apply to the Program. Students provisionally approved to study in DILS are interviewed by the DILS Director. They are accepted in DILS at the discretion of the DILS Director.
Students accepted in the program attend a mandatory orientation meeting at the beginning of the semester. The mechanics of the program, academic expectations, policies and evaluation procedures are explained. Students meet with their native speaker Language Partners at this time.
The DILS final exam is a 45 to 60 minute oral exam, testing students for pronunciation, grammatical competence, comprehension, appropriateness of language use and, particularly for students at the post-beginning level, for discourse and strategic competence.
Much of a DILS program’s success rests on on-going communication between student, LP and DILS Director. Students are urged to be self-reflective during their language learning process and to keep the DILS Director informed of any concerns they might have as they relate to their language study experience; LPs are asked to report every 2 to 3 weeks on the students’ performance. The DILS Director trains the LPs, regularly visits the sessions and meets with students and LPs periodically outside the sessions.