After my summer at Middlebury, I remember looking back at the friendships I’d made and thinking, “Wait a minute, that was all in Spanish?” However aware I may have been of the Language Pledge at the time, somehow, after the fact, I didn’t register that the conversations and experiences with friends that I cherished had all been in a learned language.
This capacity to build relationships in multiple languages is something I don’t take lightly. Since my experience at Middlebury Language Schools, I’ve been using my new Spanish skills to address language access issues in the local New Haven community.
I work as a Spanish translator and interpreter for the Yale Interpretation Network (YIN), a student-run organization that provides translation and interpretation services in 75+ languages to community members with limited English proficiency. YIN accepts translation and interpretation requests from non-profits, schools, and government agencies in New Haven and matches these cases with volunteers who speak the desired language.
As a YIN volunteer, I’ve been able to complete translation and interpretation assignments in education, community, and legal contexts. As someone interested in immigration advocacy, it has been particularly meaningful to work with members of New Haven’s immigrant community in this way.
Just as I built relationships with peers at Middlebury entirely in Spanish, I have also become close with the people I work with through YIN. One New Haven resident whom I’ve worked closely with was arrested and detained by ICE while he was dropping off his son at school two months ago. He currently faces a $10,000 bond to be released from detention and come home to his son and pregnant wife. I am organizing a fundraiser to help his family pay the bond, which they cannot afford on their own.
It would be preaching to the choir to tell the Middlebury Language Schools community that language learning is important beyond the classroom. Even so, l hope that this story reminds us that relationships can form in unexpected contexts, including unexpected linguistic contexts.
I am grateful that Middlebury contributed to my ability to work with New Haven immigrant community members in such an important and unique way, and I look forward to continuing this work throughout college and beyond.
Please consider supporting this New Haven resident’s release from ICE detention by donating and sharing the fundraiser to pay his expensive bond, as well as his family’s medical debt and monthly rent: https://www.gofundme.com/f/bring-new-haven-father-home-from-ice-detention.
Eliza Kravitz is a junior at Yale University studying history, human rights, and Spanish. She attended Middlebury’s 7-week Spanish immersion program in Summer 2021.