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Student Study Guide


Learning a language in a modified self-instructional language program is probably unlike any other course you have taken before.

In a regular language course, students come to class to receive instruction from a teacher. Then, at regular intervals, students are expected to demonstrate what they have learned by taking a test. In this program you are expected to be prepared to demonstrate what you have learned daily. In other words each class session is a test of whether or not you have mastered the assigned material.

In this program, students meet with tutors for intensive drill sessions, practicing material that the student has learned from working with tape and text. At the end of the semester, an accredited examiner will test each student and assign final exam grades. The responsibility of learning falls directly on the student. Because of the nature of this program, you will find it requires a great deal of time, energy, self-direction, and self-discipline.

Over the years many students have achieved admirable success in the Taped Language Program at UT as well as many other colleges and universities. Self-instructional language study really does work.  Whether or not it works successfully for you depends on how well you adapt to the unique nature of the program.


Read the instructions of the book carefully, since most authors include basic information about how the text is used. The text is a primer, the starting point for tape work. The following steps will be useful for you in preparing for tape work:

  1. Read through the dialogue.
  2. Study the grammatical explanations.
  3. Note which patterns are demonstrated in the dialogue.
  4. Note how the words are used in the dialogue.
  5. Note the purpose of the communication.
  6. Ask yourself if you really understand the grammar, vocabulary, usage, etc.  For example:
    How do I form a question?  What pattern do I use to compare two things?  What are the restrictions on using this word?
    How do I express an apology in this language?                     
  7. Don’t stop here.  Proceed to the tape work on the dialogues.
  8. After the dialogue, continue with the drills in a similar manner.  Make sure you understand the point of the drill before you work with the tape.


In most cases the audio material comes either in the form of digitized audio cassette tapes that are available online or in the form of CD/DVDs that accompany the textbook.  The tape work is the core of this program. The time spent on the tapes will make the difference between success and failure. The tapes will repeat the same material over and over indefinitely, without the slightest change in punctuation or construction. This makes it possible to receive in a relatively short time the exposure to the countless repetitions you need to imprint a foreign language phrase in your mind.

  1. Many short and focused sessions. Tape work requires such intensive concentration that it can be effectively sustained only for short periods of time.
  1. Repeat out loud. You cannot learn to speak just by listening.
  2. Keep your book closed. Read and study the material first, but keep your book closed to train your ears.
  3. Play a character role. When working with the tape, try to precisely duplicate the phrase on the tape. Think of yourself as an actor learning to play a character role, and attempt to copy in every possible detail the phrases you hear.

Tutor & Class

Please keep in mind the following.

  1. The tutor is not expected to function as teacher in the traditional sense. The tutor does not assign grades, give grammatical explanations, talk about, or introduce new material. The tutor will demand and check on mastery of dialogues, vocabulary, patterns, accurate pronunciation, fluent performance in oral work, and provide repetition at conversational speed with constant corrections.
  2. Please avoid the impulse to ask your tutor for grammatical explanations that may stall drill sessions. Explanations all too often require the tutor to fulfill a role for which he or she may not be prepared. Class sessions are meant to be for drills and practice.  If you have a question about grammar, check your textbook carefully.
  3. The tutor speaks at a normal speed and avoids using English. Using English with the tutor or with other students undermines the very purpose of the class session.
  4. The tutor will assign writing homework. Writing homework is usually taken directly from the textbook.
  5. You will be constantly corrected in drill sessions. The tutor will not be embarrassed when correcting you, and you should not be embarrassed when being corrected. Develop a positive attitude about correction. It will be one of the tutor’s key functions and it is certainly in your best interest as a student.

Weekly Quizzes

Quizzes are short, approximately 10 minutes, and given at the start of class.  The tutor will inform you beforehand what will be covered.  Typically, quizzes are on vocabulary.  For example you (1) write the English meaning of the words you hear or read, (2) translate words in English to the target language, (3) dictation of exact phrases (write down the phrases that are read aloud), and (4) conjugate verbs.

Oral Examinations and Evaluation

You will be tested once a semester (or twice depending on the language) by an examiner who is a qualified instructor or accredited examiner of the language. Different examiners use different rating systems, but the following points are often considered:

  • Formulation time How long does it take you to express yourself? Are you consciously constructing phrases word by word and applying one rule after another, or can you express yourself smoothly and automatically?
  • Fluency Once formulated, is the utterance fluent, or fragmented and hesitant?
  • Pronunciation Can you approximate the pronunciation of a native speaker?
  • Comprehension How many times do you have to ask for a repetition? And how long does it take you to understand?
  • Structural patterns Do you know how and when to use patterns?
  • Usage Do you know the appropriate thing to say, depending on the social context?
  • Vocabulary Can you use and understand the studied vocabulary?

The test will be fair and to the point. If you understand the goals of this program and if you have practiced appropriately, the test is simply a normal, natural extension of what you have been doing in class.

However, it is natural that you might be a bit nervous. Your examiner will be well aware of this, and every effort will be made to make you feel as comfortable as possible. The examiner’s role is to let you know where you stand as far as your language mastery is concerned. He or she will not use grammar or vocabulary that you have not studied. Even if you are a bit nervous, you must realize the importance of professional feedback on your progress in the language.

Written Examinations and Evaluation

You will also be tested on your writing and reading comprehension skills in order to show your competence in all four of the language skills. Depending on the language, this written evaluation could be part of the oral final exam or it could be given separately from the oral exam.

The test will be written and/or approved of by the examiner for that language, and often graded by him or her. This test will also be fair and to the point, and will cover the grammar and vocabulary that you have studied in the course.

Critical Information

  1. Attendance: It is absolutely necessary that students attend each class.  Classes provide students with the opportunity to speak to and be guided by a native speaker of the language they are studying.  Missing class denies the student this time to practice speaking and is detrimental to their progress in the language. If missing a class is unavoidable, it is the student’s responsibility to contact the tutor and let him or her know of the absence in advance.  When students return to class after an absence, they are expected to have completed the assignments they missed and be prepared for the current day’s lesson.  If a tutor has to cancel a class, he or she will contact students in advance and will make arrangements for a make-up session if possible.
  2. Grade assessment: The final course grade will be assigned by the director based on: (1) final oral examination given by the examiner, (2) final written examination (in some cases both midterm and final), (3) quiz scores, and (4) attendance. Refer to the syllabus for details.
  3. Incomplete: Incompletes are given only when students miss the Final Exam in cases of documented emergencies and when the examiner is a member of UT faculty.  It can only be given to students who are passing the course.  MFLL department requires that a form be filled out and signed by both the student and director.
  4. Drop and Add: Any required signatures must be those of the director.
  5. Foreign Language Requirement: Completion of the intermediate level sequence (e.g. Arabic 221 and 222) will satisfy the foreign language requirement for the College of Arts and Sciences.
(The information presented here is gathered from the National Association of Self-Instructional Language Program and the University of New Orleans Critical Languages Program.)

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