Languages at Middlebury

Categories: Academics, Student Life

Middlebury is famous for its language program for good reason. The language school in the summer is not the only linguistic claim to fame. Throughout the year, Middlebury students have the opportunity to learn Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Taking a language is a very different experience from taking any other course. It is a full-fledged experience. Although it would be impossible to have a language pledge during the academic year (the language pledge in the summer is signed by all students and stipulates that the students will hereby exclusively speak the language they are learning for the rest of the summer), Middlebury College students experience language learning in a similar way.

When we are taking the introductory level of a language, we meet with our small class and professor at least five times per week. In certain languages, such as Chinese, introductory languages can meet as many as seven times per week. Yes, I know that sounds really overwhelming, but it ends up being an incredible shared experience with your classmates and professor. Every day, students have the opportunity to eating lunch at language tables, where you are served by waiters in your language (who are other students who speak that language), and you sit with professors and students who are at all levels of speaking ability. You get to know the professor incredibly well, and you finish a year of a language with a conversational ability to speak!

At Middlebury, I have taken German. I grew up speaking French and Spanish, so I wanted to try a non-Romance language (granted, I did not venture too far away). It has definitely been more challenging than, say, Italian or Portuguese would have been. But I have come to love the process. It is a learning experience that requires building on the previous semesters of coursework, and it is also a cultural experience. Most of the Middlebury language professors are native speakers of the languages they teach, and they make an effort to incorporate a lot of their personal and national experiences into the classroom discussion. German courses will be one of my fondest academic memories of Middlebury.

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