FAQ: Supervised Independent Language Program


What is the format of a SILP course?

SILP courses are made up of:

  • One hour per day of independent study using assigned syllabus, textbook, and multimedia materials
  • Weekly conversation sessions with native/fluent speaker
  • Weekly check-ins with Center staff (via online self-assessment reports)
  • Final oral evaluation

SILP courses focus on speaking and listening skills (oral proficiency) and follow the format recommended by the National Association of Self-Instructional Language Programs.


Am I eligible to take SILP courses?

Courses are open to students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate degree programs at any of the Five Colleges. First-semester undergraduate students are only eligible for the program under certain circumstances; contact the program for more information. The program admits highly motivated students with a record of past success in language learning and demonstrated readiness to undertake independent work. Learn more about what makes a good SILP student.

Continuing education students, community members, and Five College faculty/staff are not eligible to participate in the program.

Special eligibility requirement for Cantonese: Cantonese for Mandarin Speakers is open to advanced and native speakers of Mandarin Chinese and heritage Cantonese speakers who have taken at least one year of college-level Mandarin Chinese or the equivalent. Asian Language and Asian Studies majors must have their academic advisor's permission to enroll.


How much credit will I receive?

As with all interchange classes, credit varies by campus. For each SILP course/level, you will receive: 

  • Amherst: half course
  • Hampshire: half course
  • Mount Holyoke: 1.5 credits 
    Mount Holyoke students cannot use Center language courses to fulfill the their language requirement.
  • Smith: 1.5 credits 
    Smith students must complete at least level II to receive credit. Questions about the Smith Latin Honors language requirement should be directed to the Smith College Registrar.
  • UMass: 1.5 credits
    For UMass graduate students, courses will appear on student transcript but will not earn credit.

Courses cannot be audited or taken pass/fail.


When do courses happen?

Weekly conversation sessions are individually scheduled at the beginning of the semester based on the schedules of the student(s) and conversation partner.


Where do courses happen?

Conversation sessions take place on the home campus of the conversation partner. We work with conversation partners from all five campuses and occasionally from the local community. Students are assigned to whichever conversation session best meets their educational needs, with preference given to a home campus or nearby campus location when possible. 


What materials do I use?

SILP courses have assigned syllabi, textbooks, and multimedia materials. When you register for the course, we will give you information about the materials you need. Students are responsible for purchasing all course materials.


How much does it cost? 

Like all interchange classes, SILP classes are free! Five College students do not have to pay any additional fees to take SILP classes beyond purchasing required course materials


What happens during my conversation session?

During a conversation session, you will engage in activities, conversations, and role plays designed by your conversation partner to help you practice the structures and vocabulary you studied in a given week. In a successful conversation session, students and conversation partners use as much of the target language and as little English as possible.

Conversation sessions are led by native/fluent speakers who are hired and trained by the Center. Your conversation partner is not a teacher and will not present grammar lessons; rather, their expertise lies in speaking the language. Students should arrive at their conversation session with that week’s material already prepared, ready to get talking.


How am I graded?

SILP grades comprise:

  • 10% attendance at conversation sessions
  • 10% submission of weekly self-assessment reports
  • 80% final oral evaluation conducted by a certified language professional

Your conversation partner does not have any role in determining your course grade. There is no graded written component in the course.


What happens during the final oral evaluation?

Final oral evaluations take place at the Center and are conducted over the phone or via video conference by certified language professionals. Your evaluator will lead you in a combination of conversation, question-and-answer, and/or reading aloud to determine your overall level of oral proficiency.


When do final oral evaluations happen?

Final oral evaluations are individually scheduled at the end of the semester based on the availability of students, evaluators, and proctors. The “window of opportunity” for scheduling finals is very small. Because evaluator and proctor availability is limited, students must be flexible. Once your evaluation time has been confirmed, rescheduling is not allowed except under extenuating circumstances.


Am I a good fit for SILP courses?

Students who are a good fit for SILP courses:

  • Have prior experience successfully studying another language
  • Are self-disciplined and have time and ability to fit daily independent study into their schedules
  • Enjoy figuring things out for themselves and organizing their own learning
  • Are comfortable with minimal feedback and structure
  • Have a strong motivation to learn the language (whether personal, academic, or professional)

Remember that you’re not alone: Center staff are experts in language learning and teaching strategies and are here to help students meet their goals.


Apply now!