The Defense Language Institute - An Awesome Language Tool

  • Donovan Nagel
    Written byDonovan Nagel
    Donovan NagelTeacher, translator, polyglot
    🎓 B.A., Theology, Australian College of Theology, NSW
    🎓 M.A., Applied Linguistics, University of New England, NSW

    Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator. Founder of The Mezzofanti Guild and Talk In Arabic.
  • Read time3 mins
  • Comments9
For advanced learners, DLI can be especially helpful since most language learning sites tend to be geared toward newbies.
The Defense Language Institute - An Awesome Language Tool

The Defense Language Institute
The Defense Language Institute
Pricing: Free online access for the public
  • Free to access
  • Military-grade lesson material
  • Comprehensive and covers local dialects
  • Clunky and dated interface
  • Content primarily geared for military interactions, not everyday life


The DLIFLC website is an incredibly useful language learning resource and it’s completely free to use. DLI is a department of the US military, and their lesson material goes into enormous depth, the likes of which you won't find in any other online course.

DepthThis is 'content' richness. How comprehensive is The Defense Language Institute and does it take you far in terms of levels, or is it more suited to low level/tourist learners?
UniquenessIs The Defense Language Institute innovative or is it just an imitation? Does it have a unique selling proposition (USP) that makes it stand out among competitors?
QualityOverall product quality indicator that covers everything from video/dialogue clarity, authenticity, explanations, and effectiveness.
CostIs The Defense Language Institute acceptably priced and how does its pricing compare to market competition?

Important: Since writing this review, we’ve developed the largest resource ever made for spoken Arabic dialects. If you’re learning Arabic, click here to use it.

For other languages I highly recommend this resource.

If you’re serious about learning a foreign language then you’re probably already familiar with the Defense Language Institute’s Foreign Language Center.

If you’ve never used it before then you’re missing out big time.

The DLIFLC website is in my opinion one of the most useful language learning resources I’ve ever found online and it’s completely free to use. It’s a department of the US military (vital if you’re preparing for DLPT or DLAB) but thankfully they’ve made some of it’s resources available online for the public.

From its info page:

DLIFLC is a multi-service school for active and reserve components, foreign military students, and civilian personnel working in the federal government and various law enforcement agencies.

The website’s loaded with sections that provide detailed lessons, native speaker audio files, written material, free software and cultural information.

It’s all listed here on the Products page:

Defense Language Institute

G.L.O.S.S – Global Language Online Support System

I’m not going to go into all the products in this post but I’d like to make brief mention of the G.L.O.S.S (Global Language Online Support System) and how awesome it is as a learning tool.

Go to the Products page and click here:


It will bring you to a page that lists all the available languages for G.L.O.S.S.

As you’ll see, unfortunately it doesn’t cover every language. Apart from a few European languages, the majority of the content is geared toward Middle Eastern, African and Asian languages.

You’ll notice also that dialects are offered for some languages. Arabic (standard) is listed, along with the Egyptian, Iraqi, Levantine and Gulf dialects. This is one of the features that makes this such a precious resource for learners.

Defense Language Institute - G.L.O.S.S - Languages

After you select your desired language you can scroll down and choose the level, modality (skill focus), topic and sub-topic. The levels range from 1-4 (1 is about pre-intermediate and 4 is advanced).

Your search results will appear like this:

DLI Lessons

You can either click the lesson title to begin the lesson or over on the right hand side you can click the disk icon and download the audio files, along with the lesson PDF files to your hard drive. This is handy if you want to put the dialogue on a portable listening device.

The first page of the lesson’s an overview listing the objective and the individual activities you’ll encounter.

These activities are specifically designed to target the competence type that was listed on the previous page.

Defense Language Institute - Overview

Listening activities will come with audio samples that you need to listen to in order to complete the activities:

Defense Language Institute - Audio Defense Language Institute - Arabic

A reading activity in French:

Defense Language Institute - French

I’ve found G.L.O.S.S to be tremendously useful for language learning and translation practice as it uses real language samples with dialect variation, transcription of audio material, a “teacher’s notes” button with grammatical and lexical points and a useful glossary for each lesson to help with difficult terms.

Give the DLIFLC a try

If your target language is listed as a G.L.O.S.S language then give it a try and see if you benefit from it.

For advanced learners it can be especially helpful since most language learning sites are geared toward newbies. I use these lessons for Arabic translation practice quite a lot.

Let us know your thoughts on the DLIFLC or if you know of any other resources online by using the comments section below.

If you’re learning Arabic, check out

For other languages, visit my Essential Language Learning Tools page for more recommendations.

The Defense Language Institute
Pricing: Free online access for the public

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek


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I’m curious have you taken a look through their textbooks with audio? I stumbled on a lot of websites that archive lots of textbooks and audio from the DLI and skimmed through them and the content amount is just crazy big which is great. Not surprising considering it’s a huge course in real life. In them are a ton of dialogue, cultural explanations, and repetition exercises with sentences chancing words slightly I guess focusing on the chunking technique. Anyway then I noticed the books and audio are typically from the 1960s/1970s and it made me think, oh God this stuff is probably way too outdated. Any thoughts about the quality of their material?



Just for reference, anyone can find many of their textbooks on this site

I noticed it’s labeled “FSI” instead of “DLI” but in the books it says they are written by DLI.



I tried to access it, but it seems down. :(

Maybe another link is available?



My Arab speaking Lebanese maternal grandmother lived with us until I was five years old. She spoke little English so I naturally communicated with her in my rudimentary childhood Arabic. Upon her death, the only Arabic spoken in the house was between my mother and father, and only rarely or at family reunions. We children spoke only English, and except for natural cultural idiosyncrasies common in Middle Eastern families, we were as assimilated in American culture as any other Virginia family.

While serving in the Navy during the Cold War, Arabic speaking personnel were not in high demand, nor where they necessary. Years later, after college and a law enforcement career, I deployed to western Iraq during the Sunni Awakening and the Surge as a DoD specialist. I wish that I had been proficient in Arabic then. I wish that I was proficient in Arabic now, given the likelihood of an ongoing jihad that may drag on for decades.

As a nation, we are resource rich in naturalized and native born Americans of Middle Eastern descent, many with armed forces experience with prior and current security clearances. Given the new nature of the struggle that we are in, it would benefit the nation to train and utilize that resource.



Do you have to be military to register for their other products, such as Rapport? Looks like an awesome language opportunity; too bad their immersion schools are only for military...



Hi Donovan, just stumbled on your site and have been perusing your Arabic related posts

I have a question I’m hoping you can help out with -

I’m quite competent in spoken arabic from having lived in the Middle East. I can read news articles and comprehend about 70% of what I’m reading.

My main problem is practicing in formal MSA arabic. I’m thinking that the best thing to do would be to find an online forum specifically targeted for arabic learners. That way I can chat and yammer on as much as I like in a setting where it’s ok to make mistakes. Are you aware of any such forums?

Thanks, and keep up the good work!



I used a few Egyptian forums in the past but there\’s so many I can\’t remember what they are.

I just did a quick Google search in Arabic for forums and there were plenty. If you want to use MSA, my advice would be to find a political/religious forum otherwise people tend to write colloquially in most of the other ones.

If you already understand 70% of what you\’re reading, you don\’t need to join \’learner\’ forums. Stick with the native speakers.

Thanks! :)



I’ve heard that Deutsche Welle’s materials for language learning are good and free . I’m looking forward to using myself soon. It looks quite good,,2547,00.html .



Thanks for that link, Jason. Looks like a very good and comprehensive site for German. I just bookmarked it so I can spend some time going through it later.

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