Yesterday I had lunch in French. In Middlebury, Vermont. In Ross Dining hall. All of this was made possible because of language tables, where you can sit with seven other students and a professor and practice your language skills over the real life setting of lunch. Language tables offer an amazing opportunity to practice your new language outside of the classroom, and to learn how to say important things like, “Please pass the salt” or “This hamburger is delicious” in whatever language you’re learning. For me, the coolest thing about language tables is to listen to the din of other languages being spoken all around you at other tables. Yesterday, aside from the French tables, there were also students enjoying their lunch in Japanese, Italian and Portuguese. For an hour out of the day, students took a break from their lives in English and practiced living, eating, socializing in another language, all made possible because of language tables.
One of Middlebury’s greatest academic strengths is foreign languages, and there are so many opportunities to improve your language skills here, even outside of class. Aside from dutifully attending language tables and increasing your culinary vocabulary, students can also choose to live in a language house, where they will live with other students also studying their language and pledge to only speak that language when in the house. Language houses for Spanish, French, Russian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and German are sprinkled across campus, each with dedicated student residents and a TA, a college student from that country living and working at Middlebury for a year. Living in a language house is like an abbreviated experience abroad as you are living your language instead of just speaking it for an hour each day in class.
All this is to say that Middlebury is an exciting place to learn a new language, or continue one you’ve already started. Although we are located in a small town in Vermont, there are so many ways to transport yourself to another country and another culture, even if it’s just for lunch.