Language Tables

Sorry to bombard you guys with a second email about food at Middlebury (I am currently 2 for 2), but Middlebury College has  so many unique dining options that I could probably write 100 (or more )blog posts just about dining at Middlebury.  As I mentioned in my last post, we have two main dining halls, Ross and Proctor, but we also have a third dining hall, Atwater.  Atwater used to be a full service dining hall like Ross and Proctor, but now hosts language tables.  What are language tables you may ask?  I will attempt to explain…

                Imagine entering a room and hearing 9 languages being spoken at once.  The table in the far left corner is speaking Japanese, the table in the back right is speaking Italian, and right in front of you eight students are speaking Arabic.  No, you are not at the United Nations, you are at language tables at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont.  As part of Middlebury’s extensive language program, students have the opportunity (and will sometimes be required) to attend language tables once or twice a week.  Let’s say that you take Italian.  You will come to language tables and have a sit down meal with seven or eight other Italian students of all different levels.  Chances are an Italian professor will join you as well and if not, a native Italian speaker will join you at the table.  Your waiter or waitress will also be either a native Italian speaker or an upper level Italian student.  You eat with this group for about and hour, speaking only in Italian.

                At first this experience is somewhat difficult.  During the first couple of weeks (especially if you are just beginning a language) it is hard to communicate with your peers.  There are only so many times you can smile at the person next to you and say “Hi.  I am Ben.  I like food.”  Don’t worry though, over time your speaking skills improve and it is really amazing to see and hear the difference at language tables after a month or two.  People who just a few weeks earlier were struggling with the simple task of introducing themselves are now speaking rapidly in complex sentences. 

After two years of studying a language at Middlebury and maybe a summer at our summer Language Schools, students are prepared to study abroad in an immersion environment.  Middlebury Students take classes in a foreign University with local students and they succeed!  Studying a language at Middlebury is hard work, but the hard work definitely pays off.

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