John Rassias Joins the Dartmouth Faculty

Rassias is remembered for his internationally renowned teaching method—which includes rapid-fire drills, immersion in culture, and a healthy dose of theater—a unique style that quickly makes students comfortable using a new language.

Key to the method was his dramatic style, the goal of which was to eliminate students’ inhibitions and encourage dialogue from the first day of class.

Rassias grew up in Manchester, N.H., a son of Greek immigrants. Before heading to college, he served in the U.S. Marines, piloting an amphibious tank in the 1st Marine Division’s landing in the Battle of Okinawa, on April 1, 1945, the last and largest of the Pacific island battles of World War II.

He studied French at the University of Bridgeport, from which he graduated summa cum laude in 1950. Following graduation, he went to the Université de Dijon in France as a Fulbright Scholar, and stayed there to complete his PhD. He then went to Paris, where he studied French drama at the Sorbonne and acted in the theater. His time in the theater served him well as he developed his teaching method.

In 1964, he began a long affiliation with the Peace Corps language programs, working as a consultant and developer. Two years later, he became director of the first pilot program of languages for the Peace Corps in Africa, leading training in Ivory Coast. The Rassias Method of language instruction was later adopted by the Peace Corps.

Rassias joined the Dartmouth faculty in 1965, and served thousands of students and colleagues for close to 50 years. He was a founder of the College’s Language Study Abroad programs and was the director of foreign study programs for several years. His commitment to communication and cultural understanding was the cornerstone of his life.

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