Guidelines for SILS students

Learning a language in a self-instructional program like SILS is very different from learning a foreign language in a traditional classroom setting. You are your own teacher, and the degree to which you succeed depends on how motivated and committed you are throughout the semester.

Through SILS, you have a unique opportunity to practice your developing language skills by meeting regularly with a native speaker, either individually or as part of a small group. In order to take full advantage of this opportunity, you must understand that your language partner is not a teacher - they are not expected to introduce new content, engage in discussions about grammar, grade homework, or give tests. The purpose of your practice sessions is to review and receive correction on the material you have studied on your own.

Here is some more information about what is expected of SILS students. If you are accepted, you will be asked to sign a learning contract that includes these terms, among others.

SILS students are expected to:

  • Commit to a full semester of study. This is extremely important! Our language partners and examiners are hired on semester-long contracts with limited funds; if you stop attending before the end of the semester you will have expended valuable resources that could have been used to support another student. You cannot "withdraw" from a SILS course the way you can withdraw from other classes. Please do not apply for SILS if you anticipate that this will be a problem.
  • Attend practice sessions as scheduled (normally two 1-hour sessions a week).
  • Contact your language partner in advance if you must miss a session. Make-up sessions are not normally available, unless the language partner and students are in full agreement and the SILS staff is able to arrange for a meeting space.
  • Prepare for each practice session by spending 60 minutes a day on your individual language studies. Complete all audiovisual and written exercises prescribed in your course syllabus and/or in your last practice session.
  • Participate actively during practice sessions. Among other things, your language partner has been told to:
    • check that you have mastered the assigned content
    • ask you to keep your books closed as much as possible
    • have you engage in repetition and drill exercises
    • ask you to refrain from using English
    • provide as much feedback and correction as possible
    • plan sessions so that you are speaking the majority of the time
  • Refrain from asking your language partner for grammatical explanations. Your practice sessions are an opportunity to speak in the language, not about the language; meta-linguistic discussions undermine this goal. If you have a question about grammar, feel free to consult the SILS director for help.
  • Submit a Weekly Progress Report to the SILS director. Your language partner will also keep a record of your performance and attendance. Repeated, unexplained absences are grounds for dismissal from the program.
  • Take a final evaluation, administered by the instructor who recommended your course materials and syllabus. Exams are oral, administered in person or via phone/web, and are graded based on the time you take to formulate your responses, fluency, pronunciation, comprehension, and usage of the patterns and expressions you have worked on. Final exams are scheduled in advance; make-up exams cannot usually be arranged.
Please read our eligibility requirements before applying.