The Defense Language Institute (DLI) will most likely be one of the hardest schools you will ever have to attend. Structured like a conveyor belt, DLI will pump out as many students as possible in as little time deemed necessary. If you fall behind just a little bit, the machine will just spit you out instead of slowing down the rest of the process. For this reason, the fail rate at DLI is atrociously high and for some languages, this can equate to over 50%.
While this may seem scary and daunting, you have to remember that most of these fail-outs came into DLI without the right mindset or tools to help them succeed. In many ways, they just came unprepared. Expecting to just get by like they did in high school or college, they quickly realize that they aren’t prepared for this. So, to ensure you aren’t a part of the “fail-outs,” your best option is to ensure you start off your DLI training on the right foot and follow the recommendations below. Take it from us; we have been to hell and back.
Master Your English Grammar Rules
In the beginning of DLI, you will be given a two-week introductory course. In this course, they will spend about two days on English Grammar rules and then move on to other subjects. While these two days are nice, it really isn’t enough to make you comfortable with grammar and sentence structure unless you are an English major.
The sheer fact that the U.S. military includes this in your introductory curriculum is proof that they value this type of information. However, like the military always does, they won’t give you enough but will demand that you fully understand it.
Therefore your best defense for this is to brush up on your English Grammar prior to entering DLI. Fully understanding the structure of a language and the importance of rules will absolutely help you as to progress through the course. To aid you in this, we recommend these two books.
Don’t let the name fool you, the English Grammar For Dummies book is one of the most renown book sets in the world. Regardless of your level of expertise on the matter, it is written for all everyone.
What’s most important for us DLAB takers are the examples they use throughout the book.
For our specific purposes, these examples were the best in illustrating the key points we need for the DLAB test, and believe us, we read a lot of these types of books.
The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need is a must if you are serious about understanding grammar structure and thus increasing your DLAB score.
While the book focuses on improving one’s ability to write grammatically correct papers and articles, it is one of the highest rated basic grammar books on the market. it is clear, concise and relatively inexpensive.
Begin Your Language Training?
Should you immediately start learning your language and building a vocabulary? NOOOOO!!!!!! Don’t waste your time on that! Once you start DLI, you will spend at least 10 hours a day studying and learning new vocab words. That means that within a day or two, your class will probably catch up to you and will therefore even the playing field.
Instead of focusing on vocab words, you should focus on becoming familiar with the language and its sounds. When you begin learning a language, the language initially sounds like a jumble of noises. However, after a bit of time of just listening to it and practicing your pronunciation, you will quickly hear the individual words and you will begin to feel more comfortable with it. With comfort and familiarization comes faster learning capability.
What was recommended to me and absolutely helped was the Pimsleur program. Pimsleur consists of a bunch of CD’s that go over key phrases but mainly focuses on building pronunciation and a fluent sound.
The results of this program are so good, that the U.S. military actually gives it to Special Forces before going into an area so as to build their accents and local tongue. Now how can you argue with that!
The best practice is to buy the CD set for your language and then just start listening to them when you are at home, going for a walk or in the car. Most importantly: Make sure you actually speak the phrases out loud.
That's why the Pimsleur language programs are the best bet for you. They're perfect for pronunciation and will help to increase your capability to speak better and differentiate tones - all super important as you'll see in DLI.
It may feel weird, but saying the words will really help you to pronounce it and hear it a second time. So, check out the Pimsleur language programs.
So, Let’s Put it All Together
Remember, DLI is like sprinting a marathon. Learning a couple of vocab words before entering DLI is like taking a couple of steps forward in the marathon before it starts.
Whereas building language familiarization and a firm understanding of English grammar is like eating pasta the night before the race, preparing a running plan, setting up the right equipment for the race and….well just preparing yourself for the oncoming trials of the marathon itself.
Which one will help you the most come race time?
Therefore take our advice and begin your DLI marathon with the right tools and leave the “fail-outs” in your dust.