Photo of students reading the Language Pledge in Hangzhou, China.

The Language Pledge®: a promise to speak only the language you are studying for the duration of the program.

For over 50 years the Middlebury Schools Abroad have been helping students build foreign language fluency. It begins with the Language Pledge®: a promise to speak only the language you are studying for the duration of the program. This complete linguistic immersion, combined with rigorous classroom learning and in-language co-curricular activities, helps you achieve dramatic breakthroughs.

The Language Pledge® supports the creation of a solid foundation in linguistic proficiency in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Outside the classroom, the Pledge fosters meaningful engagement and fluency acquisition, as students participate in a range of co-curricular activities, all of which take place in the target language.

The text of the Language Pledge®, in English, reads as follows:

To take fullest advantage of my time abroad, I will maintain the spirit of the Middlebury Language Pledge to speak only the language that I am studying. I understand that no English is to be used in the School’s offices, except in emergency consultations with the Director and his or her staff. I recognize that the Language Pledge plays a major role in the success of the academic, social, and personal dimensions of my time abroad, both as a symbol of commitment and as an essential part of the language learning process, as proven by the successes of the summer Language Schools. I understand that speaking the target language with other students on the program as well as with locals will help me focus my energies on the acquisition of the language and internalize the patterns of communication and the cultural perspectives associated with the language.

Violation of the Language Pledge deprives me and my fellow students of a valuable opportunity. By signing this, I agree to abide by the Middlebury College Language Pledge.

Frequently Asked Questions

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All Schools Abroad students, with the exception of those in India and Oxford, agree to abide by the Language Pledge, a formal commitment to speak, listen, read, and write the language of the host nation as the only means of communication for the entire duration of the program. It is the foundation of all of our intensive immersion programs. The Language Pledge originated at the Middlebury Language Schools and the term is a registered trademark of Middlebury College.

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The Pledge helps students focus their energies on the acquisition of language skills and to internalize the patterns of communication associated with the target language as well as the cultural perspective of their hosts. 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.

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The Pledge will begin sometime during Orientation Week. The exact timing will vary from program to program.  It will not take effect the moment you step off the plane, but will have begun before you begin your classes. 

The Pledge will remain in effect until the program is over.

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Yes. Students are not expected to speak in their language of study when they are faced with an emergency, when speaking with a health care professional, and on those occasions when it is absolutely necessary to use English or another language. Occasionally, some School staff will choose to temporarily suspend the Pledge in order to have a meeting or conversation with students about a complex topic.  Rules and practices regarding implementation of the Language Pledge vary slightly among the Schools. When in doubt, consult the director or other on-site staff member 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 semester. Speaking English in the presence of other School Abroad students is a direct violation of the Pledge.

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Yes.  This is not considered a violation of the Pledge, as long as you do this in private, and wear headphones or earbuds. (This varies from the policy at the summer Language Schools, and does not apply to students studying in the US.)

We do remind you, however, that prolonged exposure to English-language media does diminish the efficacy of your considerable efforts to improve your fluency in the target language.  In many cases, you can find movies and music to enjoy in the target language as well.  These may take some effort, at first, but will be well-worth the effort if you stick with it.

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We know that it is important for students to maintain contact with their families and significant friends while they are abroad. 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 a reasonable minimum, and only do so in the privacy of your room, when others on your program cannot hear you.

If your family is going to visit, they should do so during one of your scheduled breaks.  A family visit is not a justifiable reason to miss classes or other program activities.  You may spend time with your family, but should respect the integrity of the Pledge, and not expect to show them around your dorm or classes, unless they also speak the target language.