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More than 160 receive degrees at Language Schools commencement

August 17, 2009

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-The Middlebury College Language schools held commencement for the 95th summer session in Mead Chapel on Friday, August 14, at 8 p.m.

Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz and Vice President of the Language Schools, Schools Abroad and Graduate Programs Michael Geisler awarded degrees to more than 160 Master of Arts candidates in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish. Three candidates received doctorates in modern languages. Select students in the schools of Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese and Portuguese also received awards for distinguished study.

Vice President of Language
Schools, Schools Abroad
and Graduate Programs
Michael Geisler

Seiichi Makino, a professor of Japanese and linguistics at Princeton University, delivered the commencement address and was awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree. A leading figure in the development of Japanese studies in the United States, Makino also served as director of the Middlebury Japanese School from 1978 to 1988.

In his address, Makino discussed the importance of language learning, and offered the graduates several ways to improve the process of foreign language instruction. Languages, according to Makino, are not individual bodies of knowledge to acquire. Instead, those who teach them should think of languages as a single concept. Explaining his conceptual approach to language learning, Makino said, "Language is water. It flows like a river."

A professor at Princeton since 1991, Makino's current research focuses on linguistics and he teaches courses on East Asian studies and the Japanese language. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in English literature from Waseda University; his bachelor's and master's degrees in linguistics from the University of Tokyo; and a doctorate in linguistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has published numerous books about linguistics, culture and language study.

He was the president of the Association of Teachers of Japanese from 2003-2005, and has been the academic director of a three-summer master's program in Japanese pedagogy at Columbia University since 1996. In 2001 he was awarded the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages Award for Distinguished Service in the Profession, and received the Award of the Society for Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language in 2007.

The commencement ceremony was preceded by a carillon performance by carillonneur George Matthew, Jr. Music performed by Emory M. Fanning on the Mead Chapel organ accompanied the commencement procession and recession. During the ceremony Twilight Artist-in-Residence Fran├žois Clemmons led the graduates in the college song "Gamaliel Painter's Cane." Singers from the German School's German for Singers and Vocal Coaches program, the Italian School and the Chinese School presented vocal pieces interspersed throughout the ceremony.

Middlebury College Language Schools
Since 1915, more than 40,000 students from all walks of life - including more than 11,000 advanced degree holders - have attended one or more of the Language Schools, including the newest site at Mills College, opened in 2009. Corporate executives study side-by-side with writers, journalists, doctors, lawyers, missionaries, government officials and diplomats. Undergraduates and graduate students from Middlebury College and other institutions also attend the summer sessions to fulfill language requirements or complete degrees.

For the third year, philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman Davis has funded the 100 Fellowships for Peace: Investing in the Study of Critical Languages, which grants 100 scholarships to cover tuition, room, board and a small stipend for a summer of study in any of six critical languages and related global issues during the summer of 2009. The initiative is intended to challenge Middlebury College and its affiliate, the Monterey Institute of International Studies, to use the institutions' combined expertise in language acquisition and policy studies to recruit and train future potential peacemakers.

Under the guidance of approximately 280 faculty members at both locations from colleges and universities throughout the world, students of all ages and nationalities live on campus, totally immersed in their target language. Students live, learn and interact in the language they have come to study, and all agree to abide by the Language Pledge, a formal commitment to speak the language of study and no other for the entire summer session. In addition, the Language Schools host many cultural events that are often open to the public.

For more information about the Middlebury Language Schools, contact Director of Institutional Collaboration and Marketing Jamie Northrup at 802-443-5856 or

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