Ted and Kathy Truscott

Centennial Challenge donors Ted and Kathy O'Connor Truscott attended the Chinese School and the School in Madrid, respectively.

We spoke with the Truscotts recently about the Language Schools Centennial Challenge.

Q. What prompted you to make this gift at this time?

A. TED: “The 100th anniversary of the Language Schools is a really big deal! I have always been impressed by Middlebury’s commitment to language education. Middlebury led the way in 1915 with the founding of the German School. Middlebury continues to lead the way in immersive language education today with 10 schools and an 11th slated to open in 2015. That makes us so proud of our alma mater.”

Q. Why do you place such a priority on language education?

A. KATHY: “Studying a language and traveling abroad as a student adds a dimension to your undergraduate years that is so important to your life after college. It opens up a much broader world and gives you a different perspective on your own country. Your outlook changes and is never quite the same.”

TED: “So many people around the world speak English. That’s both good and bad. It makes it easier to talk to people, but makes English speakers lazy. You become culturally insensitive when you rely on English. It’s tough to really understand somebody else’s point of view without understanding their language. Language reveals what a culture is all about.”

Q. Do you still use the languages you studied?

A.TED:“My company has been expanding its business in Asia, so I travel there for two weeks at a time. When I see clients in China and Taiwan, they’re pleasantly surprised to find out that I can hold a conversation in Chinese. I enjoy opportunities to use the language. It is still very much a part of my life.”

Q. What were your most memorable experiences in the Language Schools or Schools Abroad?

A. KATHY: “My favorite experience was taking an art course at the Prado when I was studying in Madrid. It has one of the world’s finest collections of European art. Every class took place in front of a masterpiece. It opened my eyes to the world of art. Poor Ted; I drag him to museums all the time!”

TED: “The whole nine weeks in the Chinese School was a memorable experience. The best way to describe it is as an acceleration of time, learning a year’s worth of Chinese in a couple of months. It’s intense, but a lot of fun. You make friends faster because everyone is going through the same thing, speaking only Chinese and doing homework at a three times the rate you would ordinarily do it at college. We learned a heck of a lot and had a great time.”

Q. Are there other languages you would like to learn?

A. TED: “There are so many more Language Schools now that it would be hard to choose one. The School of Korean opens in the summer of 2015.My company just opened an office in Seoul, and I would love to learn Korean. And I wish I could go back and study Arabic. I’m traveling to the Middle East regularly, and I feel that I’m only getting half the picture if I’m in a country where I don’t speak the language.”

KATHY: “I’d like to learn Italian. We just took a family trip to Florence, and our daughter is studying Italian and spending a semester abroad in Milan. Has a family ever attended a Language School?!