The Defense Language Institute or commonly known as DLI, is a language school provided by the military that aims to teach a language to a service member in as short a time as possible. The program is extremely intensive and has a high failure rate.
As you probably know, the DLAB was designed as a means in which to help the military determine the probability of passing DLI; however, even though statistics promotes the use of the test, it by no means determines one’s fate in the program.
Depending on the language you are selected to learn, DLI can last between 6 months to 1.5 years. Languages such as French and Spanish require 6 months to reach a DLPT score of 2/2/1+ while languages such as Chinese and Korean require 1.5 years to obtain the same level. This list is by no means all-inclusive but should give you an idea of what types of languages corresponds to what duration.
When you first enroll into DLI, you will have to go through a two week language/grammar course. This course will give you an introduction to learning a language, basic grammar and recommendations towards surviving DLI.
After taking this two week course you will report to your language school and immediately start your curriculum. Each language and therefore each teaching team is very different. You will have to deal with not only the course work but also the cultural differences between you and your teachers. DLI ensures that all language teachers are from your language’s respective country and are not accustomed to American speech patterns and culture. This has and will cause many problems for those who are not prepared.
Also because the teaching team needs to keep on schedule, if they find anyone falling behind, they will fail you. The DLI course work is like sprinting a marathon. If you fall behind, it is almost near impossible to catch up. Therefore instead of causing your whole team to fall behind, they will cut the one who is behind and keep pace. It’s a harsh reality but necessary for the success of the whole group.
If you are one of those who is cut, you still have the ability to re-enroll in that language but you have to start all the way from the beginning (there are exceptions to this rule). This is a good opportunity; however, with the military cutting costs over the past couple of years, this opportunity will become less likely. So it is imperative you do your best and not rely on getting re-enrolled.
If you are one of the lucky ones to make it to the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT), you will undergo a listening portion, reading portion and an oral interview. Once all three are complete, you will finally be given your score. This score not only determines whether or not you pass DLI, it also decides how much the military will pay you to maintain your language.
Success in DLI is mainly dependent on three factors: Determination, a humble approach to learning, and a respect for your language. Take it seriously because if you fail DLI, you will have a black mark on your record and in some cases, it may require you to change to a different community. So do your best, prepare and be ready for all that DLI will throw at you. You can do it.