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."

At the Middlebury Language Schools, we've been helping students build foreign language fluency for nearly 100 years.

It all begins with the Language Pledge®: a promise to speak only the language you are studying for the duration of your time in the program. This complete linguistic immersion, combined with rigorous classroom learning and scores of in-language cocurricular activities, helps you achieve dramatic breakthroughs, no matter what your proficiency level.

In a world that needs peaceful, sustainable solutions, the Language Schools provide the tools to make change happen.

There is no substitute for having a deep understanding of other languages and cultures. There's no shortcut for truly being able to communicate with people in a common tongue. And there's no other program in the world that offers the depth of language learning that students find at the Middlebury Language Schools.

The Impact

The Language Schools have been helping students build foreign language fluency for 100 years. Language Schools graduates develop curriculums and teach the next generation in secondary schools around the country. They develop global business strategies. They create solutions for government, NGOs, and nonprofits. They put the skills gained here to work for the world.

How You Can Help

Donors to the Language Schools become partners in advancing understanding of other cultures and languages. They are helping to develop peaceful, sustainable solutions to the world's challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities that our interconnected world presents.


Language Schools

Consulting Us About a Distressed Student

Middlebury's Language Schools are renowned for their excellence in producing high levels of language acquisition. The experience of language immersion, combined with the Language Pledge, (a formal commitment required of all students to speak, listen, read, and write in their language of study as the only means of communication for the summer session), open opportunities for students to communicate in their target language and deepen their cultural understanding.

This intense program may produce tension. Some of this may be pleasurable, stimulating, "euphoric" tension, and may enhance the learning experience. However, "dysphoric" tension—disagreeable, discouraging—may also result. What follows is a brief description of some sources of dysphoric tension and things students can do about it.

  • Language is one of our primary modes of self-expression. When learning a new language, we are initially limited in our ability to demonstrate our cognitive and creative capabilities, using our fledgling language skills.
  • Embarking on a new language is like entering a new reality, for language is used not only for communication but as the medium through which we construct our world. The words available to us influence how we think about things.
  • In this "new reality" our sense of self may be altered. Because of our limited language abilities, we may begin to perceive of ourselves as less competent than in our "native language personalities". This may be unnerving for Middlebury language learners who are highly accomplished professionals, teachers, graduate students or undergraduates in their "real" lives.
  • When arriving at Middlebury, one is confronted with a new social milieu. Making friends and discovering one's position within this setting are natural concerns that many face. With limited communication skills, it may be difficult to let one's personality shine through.
  • A social hierarchy may develop, where more accomplished speakers seek out other accomplished speakers. Relatively inarticulate beginners may feel frustrated at their inability to express complex ideas or make a precise point. They may find their ability to relate to others affected.
  • Some students react by withdrawing from social interactions and feeling a lack of self confidence. Depression or anxiety may result. Students often go through several phases of feelings with regard to the language school experience. "Should I even be here?" "Am I at the right language level?" are questions that some students confront at the outset.

Coping Strategies

  • Seek out opportunities to engage in activities where your skills, intelligence, and creativity can be expressed. It will remind you about who you fully are.
  • Participate in sports and exercise; this is an excellent mode of self-expression that requires minimal language use.
  • Go for a long walk alone: enjoy nature and solitude.
  • When necessary, call family and friends at home to put language school (and other) concerns in perspective.
  • Visit the Center for Counseling and Human Relations: it can provide you with a space where you can talk about your concerns (in English) and allow the full expression of your personality. (The language pledge is suspended at the counseling center.)
  • Most of all, try not to be too hard on yourself. Remember, making mistakes is a natural, integral part of learning a new language.

Tips on Being a Good Language Learner (from the Language Schools Handbook)

  • BE OBSERVANT: Keep your eyes and ears open. Much of what you need is going on around you rather than in your teaching materials.
  • BE (OR BECOME) AN EXTROVERT, PARTICIPATE: Jump in, ask when you don't know, make mistakes. Experiment, learn to develop guessing strategies and be willing to make hypotheses.
  • BE PREPARED FOR FRUSTRATION: Interacting with others in another language can be a humbling experience. Increasing one's proficiency in a second (or third) language and culture takes both time and concentrated effort. Learn to be self-conscious in a productive way. Get some exercise and stay as rested as you can.
  • BE YOUR OWN TEACHER: Develop your own strategies, figure out what works for you - taking notes outside of class, mnemonic tricks, talking to yourself, etc.
  • USE MEMORIZATION: Look for routines, fixed or formulaic chunks of language you can use over and over, bits of songs or plays, etc.
  • AIM FOR DISCOURSE, NOT WORDS: Think beyond the sentence, in terms of context, relationships, and overall meaning. A perfectionist's approach to detail will almost certainly prove counterproductive. Especially in the beginning, attention to meaning should come before attention to form.
  • GO WITH THE FLOW: Do not rely on rules or explanations to the exclusion of keeping things moving. Develop your ability to paraphrase and use circumlocutions when you do not know a word, rather than give up or lapse into silence.

Middlebury College
Counseling Services
Ext. 5141

Produced by Ene Piirak, Ph.D., Counseling services. Some material adapted from research conducted by Drs. Radnofsky and Spielmann.

Radnofsky, Mary L. and Spielmann, Guy. "The Role of Euphoric and Dysphoric Tension in Language Acquisition: An Ethnographic Study of Beginners' Experience at the Middlebury French School." Research paper funded by a grant through the Middlebury College Language Schools.

Spanish Summer Language School acts as catalyst to create online journal

In the summer of 2003, Miguel Fernandez, Middlebury Class of 1985 and a professor of Spanish at the College, ran into Mark Del Mastro with whom he had studied at Middlebury in Madrid, in the master's program in 1988. Del Mastro, a professor at The Citadel, was teaching at the Language School. There they met Juan Pablo Spicer-Escalant, who teaches at Utah State and was the designated director for the new Middlebury program in Guadalajara. Discussions among the three led to the development and launching of "Decimononica," an online, international, refereed journal on nineteenth-century Hispanic cultural production. The journal has had more than 25,000 visitors and has become one of the leading journals in its field.

Language School student will study in Brazil on Fulbright

Baylor University senior Alex Nix, a student at Middlebury's Portuguese School this summer (2009), is one five Baylor students who have been selected to receive the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. A Spanish major from Riesel, formerly of Waco, Nix will spend the 2010 academic year in Brazil, where she will assist with teaching English, while developing the study of American poetry as a way of encountering and understanding American culture.