FAQs: Self-Instructional Language Program


1) How do I study a language on my own?

Not every student is ready to tackle independent language study. When you apply to the program, you will be asked about your previous experience in learning languages. If you have been successful in regular classroom courses and you have a strong motivation to learn the language, you are a good candidate for independent study. However, you also need to consider whether your preferred styles for learning language and your current course/work load are compatible with independent study.

Students who enjoy figuring things out for themselves, like to organize their own learning, and are comfortable with minimal feedback and interaction with an instructor, will do well. Students who learn best through extensive interaction with an instructor, prefer highly structured assignments, and like frequent feedback, may find the independent study format frustrating.

Regardless of your learning style, you must also have time in your schedule to accommodate language study. Independent study takes at least as much, if not more, time than preparation for a classroom course. When you apply to the program, you will be asked about your other course and work commitments. You should have already thought about where in your schedule you can accommodate a minimum of 7 hours a week (one hour a day) devoted exclusively to your language course. Successful students map out for themselves what periods of time each day they plan on devoting to language study and are able to keep the schedule they set for themselves.

2) Where do I find my materials?

Students purchase their own textbooks. Required texts are listed on my.pomona.edu and on the course syllabus. The students enrolled in the course will have access to the Sakai site on which the accredited faculty examiner associated with the course has places additional audio visual and other materials, which complement the exercises listed on the course syllabus. Students are highly encouraged to review these supplementary materials. General information on the Oldenborg language tables is available here.

3) Who is my language coach and what do we do in a class session?

Students participate in a two class sessions per week; classes are led by a native speaker “language coach.” Language coaches are usually international graduate students enrolled at The Claremont Colleges. They apply for the position and are interviewed by the Oldenborg director and faculty consultants. The language coach’s job is to introduce materials listed in the syllabus and prepare topics of conversation using the structures and vocabulary you are studying. Language coaches are instructed not to use English in these sessions.

Students need to be aware of the proper role of the language coach and the class sessions in their overall program. The language coach is not a “teacher” and the class sessions are not the same as a standard language class. The language coach is not supposed to present a grammar lesson. (Consider: Does simply being a native speaker mean one can succinctly explain relative pronouns to an English learner?) Instead, the expertise of the language coach lies in speaking the language. Your goal in a class session should be to speak the language as much as possibly you can.

Students should prepare each day’s assigned material in advance of each class. An unprepared student slows down the entire group. Students should realize that each class session is but a supplement to the larger independent study. You are responsible for all material assigned for the semester, regardless of whether that material was ever covered or used in a class session. The nature of a SILP language class makes it impossible to cover all of this material in class.

4) Who are the Language Fellows?

Language Fellows are undergraduate students who are proficient or native speakers of the target language. Language Fellows assist students with pronunciation and help them identify and self-correct errors in speech and written homework. Language Fellows can help students understand and use idiomatic language or culturally complex expressions. They do not provide answers to homework assignments and do not correct or edit homework.

5) How am I graded?

Although the overall course grade will be P/NC, components of the course (midterm, final, language table attendance, and class participation) are assessed on a point-based system. Each component is weighted and the finally tally of these points will determine P/NC. The midterm and final exam are both written and graded by the outside language examiner. Additionally, the language coaches regularly update the Oldenborg director regarding student progress and whether any low grade notices, for example, are needed.

6) When will my final oral evaluation be and what will it be like?

The oral evaluation is a component of the final exam and will take place during official exam week. Most oral evaluations are done by webcam or videoconferencing set-up. The evaluator is often only available for an hour or two. You will need to be able to arrange your schedule to be present for your oral evaluation.

Each faculty member has his/her own method of conducting the evaluation, but most use some combination of conversational interaction and oral question and answer. Students also may be asked to read aloud in the language. Remember that you are responsible for all material on your assignment sheet, regardless of what was covered in your conversation sessions.

7) What if I need to drop the course or want to take an incomplete?

We follow Pomona’s standard drop policy.