Language Pledge

The Language Pledge®, a formal commitment to speak the language of study as the only means of communication for the entire session, is required of all summer language students. The Language Pledge plays a major role in the success of the program, both as a symbol of commitment and as an essential part of the language learning process. Violation of the Language Pledge deprives both you and your fellow students of an important opportunity. The Language Pledge requires that you not speak, read, or hear English or other foreign languages at any time, even off campus. This means that you should have no contact with students or faculty of another School, even if you speak the language of that School. You will be given a verbal warning for the first violation and a written warning for the second violation. Subsequent violations will be considered grounds for expulsion. This Pledge has been a major key to the success of the Middlebury Language Schools for 100 years. We are confident that you understand its importance and will adhere to it.

What is the Language Pledge?

All Language School students agree to abide by the Language Pledge, a formal commitment to speak, listen, read, and write the language of study as the only means of communication for the entire summer session. It is the foundation of all of our intensive immersion programs. The Language Pledge originated at the Language Schools and the term is a registered trademark of Middlebury College.

What does the Language Pledge say?

The Language Pledge says: “In signing this Language Pledge, I agree to use ___________ as my only language of communication while attending the Middlebury Language Schools. I understand that failure to comply with this Pledge may result in my expulsion from the School without credit or refund.”

Why are students required to take the Pledge?

The Pledge helps students focus their energies on the acquisition of language skills and to internalize the patterns of communication and cultural perspective associated with the target language. The Language Pledge plays a major role in the success of the program, both as a symbol of commitment and as an essential part of the language learning process. It ensures that the vocabulary and structures gained in class are “put in motion” right away so they are acquired, used, and not forgotten.

Are beginning students, i.e., students who have never studied the language, required to take the Language Pledge?

Students who are beginning their study of a language take a modified and progressively more rigorous Pledge. Each School has built-in structures to enable beginners to succeed during those first several days and a Bilingual Assistant who may speak to beginning students in English during this period. Also, all Language School Directors, the Dean, the Dean’s staff, and most faculty members are available for consultations in English.

When is the Language Pledge waived?

Students are not expected to speak in their language of study when they are faced with an emergency, when conversing with a member of the Middlebury College administration, with a School Coordinator, when speaking with a healthcare professional, and on those occasions when it is absolutely necessary to use English or another language. Rules and practices regarding implementation of the Language Pledge vary slightly among the Schools. When in doubt, consult the Director, Coordinator or Bilingual of your School. Most important is adherence to the spirit of the Pledge and each student’s sincere effort to use the target language as exclusively as possible during the session. Speaking English in the presence of other Language Schools students is a direct violation of the Pledge and must be avoided at all times.

May I call my parents, spouse, children, significant other, friends? Also, my parents want to visit me while I am here; may I go to dinner with them and speak English?

We know that it is important for students to maintain contact with their families and friends. We can’t say how much is necessary for each person, so we ask that you keep contacts which are not in your School’s language to the absolute minimum that you feel you need.

May I attend religious services?

Yes. Information on local area churches may be found through the Chaplain’s Office.

When does the Pledge begin? Is it different for 6-, 7-, or 8-week students? Is it different for beginners?

The Pledge begins when you sign the Language Pledge. Some Schools will have you do this as you check in, others when you take the placement exam; the important thing is that once you have signed it, the Pledge is in effect. Special rules may apply to beginners. Ask your School Coordinator when you check in what the policy is for your School.

May I leave campus on weekends, for example, to attend a friend’s/family member’s wedding, commencement, or a conference?

Yes, with the approval of your School’s administration. We know that brief absences from campus are sometimes necessary. However, they should be kept to a minimum, since weekend activities are an important part of the program.

Has anyone ever been expelled for a violation of the Language Pledge?


I have a friend in another School, and once in a while we have a conversation in the language of their School, which I also speak. Is that a violation of the Pledge? After all, I am not speaking English.

Yes, it is a violation of the Language Pledge. The use of any language other than your target language is a violation of the Pledge.

May I read the newspaper or weekly magazines in other than the target languages? May I listen to music in other languages?

Any use of a language other than the one being studied is a violation of the Pledge. Use of a language includes listening, reading, writing, as well as speaking. Please remember that the Pledge is NOT simply a rule against using English; it applies to ALL languages other than the one that you came here to study.

May I watch television?

Most Schools have televisions in common spaces with satellite programming in the respective language of study and you are welcome to watch these programs. Watching TV in any other language during the summer violates the Pledge.

I am a graduate student on a committee working on a project during the summer and we are linked by e-mail. Am I breaking the Pledge if I write e-mails in English in order to complete this work?

We ask that you keep the spirit of the Pledge in mind. If such work is necessary and will not conflict with your course work and your participation as a member of your School’s community, then it is acceptable to uphold your professional commitments. If the work would take up a significant amount of your discretionary time and attention, it would be better for you to consider attending the Language Schools in a future summer, when you will not be bound by such prior commitments. You should take the Language Pledge only when you are ready and able to make a good-faith effort to abide by it.

When does the Pledge end?

Usually, the Pledge ends when you leave campus. Ask your School’s Director or Coordinator about the practice in your School.