Archive for the ‘Language Schools’ Category

From Russian to NPR: Language Study Matters
August 16, 2010

Well folks, we’re back in a Ghost town.

This past Friday, all of the language school students (finally) left, leaving a 1,500 person sized vacancy on our huge, leafy campus. For (almost) the entire summer, the few, the proud, the English have been surrounded by foreign language school students, so to have them gone feels very strange.

Not to mention that the cute French children have also left.

To celebrate the end of the Language schools, the college held a commencement ceremony this past Friday to honor those students who were receiving Masters or Doctorate degrees in Foreign Language. It was held in Mead Chapel, which was a nice throw back to the days of Convocation (I mean, who didn’t love touching the cane?). For the ceremony, the school brought in Vivian Schiller, the president of NPR, to speak. Besides being such a powerful woman (she’s not only run NPR but also the Discovery Channel and CNN), Ms. Schiller earned her Masters from Middlebury in Russian almost exactly 25 years ago in 1985.

As to be expected, her speech focused primarily on language acquisition and education. As an undergraduate, Ms. Schiller earned a degree in Russian, obtaining her Masters in Russian later on at Middlebury. You might be wondering, as a lot of us in the audience were, how she could have possibly ever ended up pursuing a career in journalism. She discussed how she receives that question a lot of the time, people prodding her to figure out why on earth she studied Russian. She responded, saying that she studied Russian because she loved it and it is because of her study of Russian that she became the journalist that she is today. She went on to say that she could ‘trace a straight line’ from her decision to study Russian to her current work with NPR.


As a student fascinated with languages (I’ve studied French, Italian and Spanish, and am thinking about jumping on the Portuguese train), it was empowering to hear that so much success could come from pursuing a foreign language passion. I sometimes find myself struggling to validate my intense focus on language study, both because it is incredibly time consuming and because, at least on the surface, it doesn’t seem very practical, but Ms. Schiller has seemingly defied that notion, and in her speech she spent a great deal of time urging all those in the room to not only study a language, but to become immersed in the culture of that language. In America, she went on to say, we have lost touch with what it means to be aware of other cultures and that only through language study can we ever hope to regain a sense of knowing what it means to be citizens of the world.

Her speech brought me, if nothing else, immense clarity about what I want for myself. I want to study languages, yes, but I also want to become an active participant in bringing together those parts of the world that seem so lost in translation.

I guess Middlebury isn’t a bad place to start.

Listen to Ms. Schiller’s speech here:″

And a rousing rendition of Gamaliel Painter’s Cane (led by François Clemmons, tenor):″

Ciao/Adios/Au Revoir,



Eggs, Eggs…and More Eggs
August 12, 2010

(A guest post written by sophomore Ada Santiago)

“We need more scrambled eggs now, and get another platter of pancakes right after that.”

It’s 7:40a.m. I have officially been at work for over two hours, and my day is just getting started. The usual 7:30am students-eating-before-class rush is ten minutes in, and it has yet to slow down. They pile in, two or three at a time, and clear a platter of fried eggs twice as fast as we can make it. No matter how many we squeeze onto one platter, they amazingly manage to consume it all within a matter of two minutes. Literally.

My name is Ada Santiago and I am a student worker spending my lovely Tuesday-Saturday mornings working in Proctor. While I am not a regular eater at any dining hall on campus, during the school year or otherwise, I have gained quite an appreciation for what goes on behind the counter. The day starts at 5:30am, which is also when my shift starts. We go upstairs, me and one full-timer, and we start the hot cereals (always oatmeal, and the other one varies from day to day), and we open at 6:30 for the Language School students. Proctor gets French and Spanish people all day, and Italian and Japanese people in the morning as well. Amazingly, there are always people waiting outside at 6:30. Why? We still don’t know. They’re usually professors, and they usually spend the entire hour and a half before class at 8am in the dining hall for breakfast. We question a lot of things about them; we’ve been told they are very different from the school year students, and we like to compare them to what we know about the regular Middlebury College students. Some differences:

1)    Language School people eat more than Middlebury College kids. They are all required to be at their meal times, more specifically lunch, so they figure they may as well eat while they’re there anyway, whereas Midd students have the luxury of being able to skip a meal or two and only really attending dinner if they wanted to. This means that though we’re feeding 800 people a meal during the summer as opposed to 1500 during the school year, we may as well be feeding 1200 at the rate and amount at which they eat.

2)    Language School people don’t like the food here as much as Midd students do. They (mainly the professors) tend to give the food a funny look, as if to question it and its sources; sometimes they end up eating it, sometimes they don’t. Midd students will eat the food without question.

3)    Language School people ask a lot more questions about the food. For example, “What is this?” is a very common question we get. Even though there’s a sign RIGHT ABOVE said food that lists, not only the name of the food, but every single ingredient in it, right down to the salt and pepper. We often direct them to the signs, only to get puzzled looks in return. Honestly, I cannot sit down and try to explain to you what sautéed squash and zucchini is, sorry if you’re confused.

Perhaps one of the more amusing incidents at Proctor was when a woman walked up to us wanting to order fried eggs, which they often do during breakfast and brunch time. The woman was from the Spanish School and wasn’t familiar with American terms such as, “sunny-side up.” Therefore, she proceeded to ask me for eggs that were, “um, how do you say in English, eh, con el sol arriba? (with the sun up)”. It was very endearing, and I luckily understood what she meant and explained to her what she wanted, and how to say it. She’s now a regular, and can ask for a sunny-side-up egg. In English.

Overall, working in Proctor is pretty rewarding. You get to see how fresh the food all is, and how it’s made and where it comes from, and why the lines aren’t always full when you need them to be (be patient with us, yeah?). I will most probably return to Proctor to work in the fall, so drop by and say hi on your daily visits to Proctor. Also, say thank you to the workers, whether they are refilling the salad bar, the hamburgers, or just wiping down the counters. It’s nice to hear that people appreciate what we do.

The Good Ol’ Days
August 9, 2010

Apparently they used to have pins for English speaking students on campus…

Credit: Abigail Borah

Oh the days when we were loved.



July 21, 2010

We only wish we would have written this:

Illegal English
July 12, 2010

“In signing this Language Pledge, I agree to use ______________ as my only language of communication while attending the Middlebury Language Schools. I understand that failure to comply with this Pledge may result in my expulsion from the School without credit or refund.”

This is the language pledge that all students at the Middlebury Language Schools take upon their arrival at Midd. It’s supposed to be a very strict pledge; it is, after all, where the Language school catch phrase “No English Spoken Here” comes from. Not adhering to the pledge is actually a very serious offense and, as the pledge suggests, you can get kicked out of the program without getting your $7,000 back.


With all the gravity that is placed on the pledge, you’d think that language school kids would be very good about only speaking their chosen language, both fearing potentially-wasted money and getting on the bad sign of the infamous ‘language-school police.’

But you’d think wrong.

Language school kids break the pledge. A lot. And it’s understandable- Imagine if you were a level 1 (beginner) Chinese student, forced to adhere to the pledge. For a week and a half you wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone, awkwardly and, more importantly, silently bearing both the weight of social isolation and a ton of homework. Sounds pleasurable, eh? What I, and a lot of the summer workers have found, is that language-pledge-violators can be grouped into 3 categories based on both severity and frequency of breaking the pledge.

1. The broken down violator: These students are serious about the pledge. They paid $7,000 to come learn Portuguese or Japanese and they ain’t playin’. These are the kids you see pouring over their materials in adirondack chairs, scorning English speakers with their judgmental eyes, reveling in their language’s culture.

And then they crack.

They miss speaking English because they’ve realized that you can only last on phrases like, “Hello, my name is Cody and I’m from Dallas! I like to eat. I like to sing. I like to write. What do you like to do?” for so long. Further, they miss their family, people who probably don’t understand Arabic or Hebrew or whatever language the student is speaking. So what do they do? They run to the English safe spaces on campus (Admissions, Help Desk, Public Safety, etc.) with ‘problems’ that they need to talk about to the employees (for example, going to the help desk and asking the workers to help you set up an email account or open a word document).

Or they cower under their beds, in cars, anywhere that is confined and far away from other language school students, desperately calling family members, friends, or listening to English music. After they get out of their English funk, they hurry back to their language school pals, pretending like nothing ever happened. If you’ve got to break the pledge, this is the way to go.

2. The cautiously-constant violator: This person, like the one above, breaks the language pledge because he or she is feeling burnt out, broken down, what have you. They’re typically a level 2 or level 2.5 student, someone who has a pretty good grasp of the language they’re studying and doesn’t haven’t to try quite as hard as beginners to make sense of what they, or others, are trying to say.

They break the pledge because they want to speak English, yes, but their motives extend far past being able to communicate for a few minutes without intense concentration: they want to hang out, party, and get to know each other (and the summer workers) in a tangible way (seriously, how well can you get to know someone when, all of a sudden, you’re all speaking a foreign language that takes away your humor and personality).

Often times, they know English speakers on campus and decide to, whether begrudgingly or not, meet with their English speaking friends once or twice a week at a designated location for some ‘English-only’ time. In this way, they can get a consistent break from their language and a chance to catch up with their friends. They respect the pledge, for the most part, and are wary of getting caught or being found out by friends that they are speaking English.

3. The ‘I’m in language school?’ violator:Before spending a summer at Middlebury, I never thought that these kind of students existed. I assumed that, sure, people broke the language pledge, but that, most of the time, people pretty much stuck to the language of their choice.

I was wrong.

This classification of rule violator, as you can probably gather from the name, breaks language pledge all the time. And not necessarily for important reasons. It could be that they just want to have a conversation with a fellow language school student without stressing about grammar rules or they want to talk to an English speaking worker, but the frequency with which they break the pledge is astounding.

These are the kind of kids you see every weekend breaking the pledge in an unapologetically abrasive manner, shouting English across streets, daring the language police to discover them. For me, at least, it becomes a question of why they even decided to come to language schools at all; sure they’re learning a lot and are probably being very studious but, at the same time, if you don’t spend your time fully immersed in the language, how can you ever achieve fluency?

Thankfully, all of the friends I have in the language schools here at Middlebury are pretty good about keeping the pledge, breaking it only to spend time with their favorite English speaking bloggers.

Until the next language pledge violation,


Lost in Translation
July 2, 2010

As mentioned before, Cody and I have a good friend, Nial, who is currently studying at Middlebury’s Chinese Language School. He wanted to write a blog post for us, detailing his experience thus far with language schools. However, it had to be in Chinese. Therefore, I give you the Google-translated version of Nial’s saga:

You! My name is Cui Lexiong (English – Nial Rele), I am Matilda Chinese University of summer school a third grade student. Matilda I am a normal student, majored in environmental studies, my little professional as Chinese. I give you Matilda language schools inside the University of consumption. At first I should tell you – I let the Cody and sheen O Lee (Audrey) has been translated using Google the words I write, so if a little strange translation, not my fault, is Google. I also hope that this blog is good to the appropriate level. In addition, we called the Middlebury College “Matilda (MingDe) University” because it is the Chinese name of our university. I heard that using Google translate to English time, MingDe the English translation is the English name – “Matilda”. However, I give you take, Middlebury College’s Chinese name is really meant more beautiful. For those who are interested, Ming means “bright”, De means “morality.” So Matilda is a very bright university places, many of the moral. Yes! However, first of all, our weather has not so “bright”, and they tell you that the University’s language school Matilda could be your life’s most difficult learning experience, you’d better believe they. I am now waiting for lunch, and quite happy because we finished the week to do. But the terrible meaning, we still have six weeks. Three weeks, we have nearly finished a text, learning a lot of hundred words, many new syntax. On the other hand, on the road, my level of Chinese must have been raised, there are a lot of very interesting I know the Chinese students. I think the most interesting thing is, many people from all walks of life to learn a very mysterious yet very unique language. That gave birth to a very attractive situation, every conversation (of course with the Chinese) on the attractive special life story. I am now finally excited to Hangzhou next semester. Also, I found interest in calligraphy and tai chi. It is very fun! Those extra-curricular activities are school teachers of Chinese teaching. They are really quite convincing. Looked at a lot of people I do not know on my campus so I feel a little strange, but I am willing to share. I miss my English in the world, friends, family members, but the occurrence of language schools in the Matilda is really amazing.

The original text (in case you actually know Chinese):

你们好!我叫崔乐雄(英文- Nial Rele),我是明德大学的中文暑校的一个三年级的学生。我是一个正常的明德大学生,专业是环境学,我的小专业视中文。我要给你们明德大学的语言学校的内线消。开始的时候我应该告诉你们- 我让了Cody和妵澳李(Audrey)用Google一直翻译我写的话,所以如果翻译有一点奇怪,不是我的错,是Google的。我也希望这个博客是好的到合适的程度。另外,我们叫做Middlebury大学“明德(MingDe)大学”因为这是我们的大学的中文名字。我听说用Google翻译到英文的时候 ,MingDe的英文翻译就是那个英文名字-“Matilda”。但是,我给你们把握,Middlebury大学的中文名字的真的意思比较美丽。为了有兴趣的人,Ming的意思就是“光明”,De的意思就是“道德”。所以明德大学是一个很光明的地方,也有很多的道德。不错!然而,首先,我们的天气还没有那么“光明”,而且,他们告诉你明德大学的语言学校可能是你的生活的最难学习经历,你最好相信他们。我现在在等午饭,而相当高兴因为我们的星期来做完了。但是很可怕的意,我们还有六个星期。三个星期来,我们已经差不多做完了一本课文,学习了很多百生词,无数新的语法。另一方面,在路上,我的中文的水平一定已经提高了,还有我认识了很多很有意思的中文同学们。我觉得最有意思的事就是很多人从各行各业还来学习很神秘很别致的语言。那,生了一个很迷人的情况,每一个谈话(当然用中文的)关于诱人的特别的生活故事。我现在很兴奋下个学期终于去杭州。另外,发现了我对书法和太极拳有兴趣。那都是很好玩!那些课外活动都是中文的学校的老师们教的。他们真得很心悦诚服。看着很多我不认识的人在我的校园上让我有觉得有一点奇怪,可是我愿意共享。我很想念我的英文的世界,朋友们,家人,可是在明德语言学校的发生真的了不起。

O we do miss this guy.


Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind
July 1, 2010

For the past few days, I have had many strange encounters with Language School students. When relaying some of these tales to my beloved friend R. Kelly (better known as Ryan Kellett), he cleverly told me to name the title of this blog post “Close encounters of the 3rd kind.” I decided to humor him, and in doing so, discovered that the movie’s tagline accurately represents my language school experiences thus far:

“Close Encounter of the First Kind – Sighting of a UFO (language school students). Close Encounter of the Second Kind – Physical Evidence (the expulsion of foreign languages). Close Encounter of the Third Kind – Contact. WE ARE NOT ALONE”

Before the language school students arrived, I couldn’t get over how excited I was about interacting with all the new people on campus. I thought, “oh, this is going to be FANTASTIC! I can practice my Italian, Spanish, and French and all the language school kids will love me!”


To put it bluntly, the language school kids instill fear like no other. If a language school kid catches you speaking English anywhere on campus (how dare we attempt to communicate with one another) they will give you the kind of evil eye that only a true foreigner could give an ignorant American. As mentioned earlier, I have experienced many funny and terrifying moments with the language school kids, a few of which I will detail below…

1) During one of my first ‘language school sensitive’ tours of Middlebury, I was walking through Bi-Hall, giving my usual spiel (“Yes, this is the largest window in Vermont, much to the chagrin of the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory”) when, out of no where, a blonde woman appeared. I was speaking with my 6-inch voice (many thanks to my Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Armstrong for teaching me about that one) , trying not to let my English derail the progress the language school students have been making. As if saying “And here’s another classroom” could throw off someone’s foreign language feng shui, but I digress.

As soon as I passed the girl, she shot me an evil look and said “no.”

I stared back, dumbfounded. Was she telling me that I couldn’t give a tour or that I couldn’t speak or that my means of communication were ‘wrong’? I didn’t bother to find out, shutting my mouth and continuing my tour, supplementing any useful information in English with exaggerated hand gestures.

2) Some kids are coming to language schools as beginners (or level 1’s) , fine, perfect. I understand and fully support them stumbling through simple sentences with no accents (Si, voglio andare a la biblioteca or Oui, je m’apelle Cody, merci). We were all beginners at one time or another, and I’ve certainly made my fair share of mistakes with languages (in Spanish one time I told my professor, “pero professora, estoy embarasado,” which instead of translating to “but professor, I am embarrassed,” translates to “but professor, I’m pregnant.” Fun day for Cody).

However, I have very little tolerance for students who have taken a language for several years (entering as advanced students at levels 2 or 3) who still manage to sound like they just learned the language. The other day, my friend Syd and I were sitting on the Proctor terrace in front of a group of 3rd year Spanish students who all sounded like this:

It was painful to listen to and, after eavesdropping for 10 minutes, my friend and I went over to talk/help/completely renovate their Spanish. Let’s hope that after a few weeks they’ll develop good accents and stop saying sentences like “Yo necesito tu me ayudar” (which, translated, means almost nothing, although the intent is “I need you to help me,” a phrase that we should have taught those bewildered gringos).

3) One of the most amazingly-awful interactions that any of my friends have had with the language school kids happened to my friend Whitney. Braced with laundry that desperately needed to be done, Whitney decided to go to Forest Hall and do her laundry, the dorm where all of the Chinese language-school students are living, which in theory doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. She would silently navigate her way to the laundry room and keep her English expulsions to a minimum.

Except she had no idea where the laundry facilities were located.

Equipped with 3 Chinese phrases (‘Hello,’ ‘Darn it!’ and ‘Long time no see’), Whitney entered Forest determined to discover where she could do her laundry. When she saw a group of Chinese students in the main lobby, she said, “ni hao,” which is Chinese for hello. They responded with greetings, at which point Whitney said, “no, ni hao,” pointing dramatically at her laundry. After repeating the phrase several more times, a girl caught on and led her to the laundry facilities.

Whitney then used the phrases for ‘Darn it!’ and ‘Long time no see’ to express her gratitude.

So, as you can see, she’s fully prepared to move to Beijing.

And that is really what a lot of English to Language School interactions are all about, comically tragic meetings that end in hilarious stories.

Or all out language-based warfare.

Hasta nuestro próximo encuentro,


妵澳李’s Adventures in Chinese
June 18, 2010

I have a new name: 妵澳李. Can’t read that? Neither can I.

But that is my new Chinese name, given to me by my friend Nial Rele, who is attending the Chinese School here this summer. He assures me that the individual characters mean: (respectively) beautiful, bay, plum; and is pronounced (in pinyin) tǒu ào Li. However, Google translate (which I have grown to love) tells me that the name means “Spiffing O Lee”. I kind of like that better than “Beautiful Bay Plum” anyways. It seems that this week has been very Chinese-heavy, whether it be at work in the Helpdesk or just around campus. Some interesting anecdotes:

  • Language pledged for 9-weeks, Nial enjoys texting / facebook chatting in Chinese. But not in Chinese characters; in pinyin. In case you don’t frequently use google translate in Chinese, there is no option for Pinyin to English, or vice-versa. Therefore, when he texts me, I get to play the fun game of guessing what he says. A useful tool has been, which allows you to search for the English meaning of pinyin words, but only one at a time. My attempts at deciphering his texts usual end with me saying “Wǒ bù zhīdào nǐ zài shuō shénme.” Meaning “I don’t know what you’re saying.” It has been interesting to say the least.
  • One day I helped a woman at the Helpdesk who was in Chinese Level 1, or Beginning Chinese. Starting off the study of a language at Middlebury Language Schools is a pretty ambitious endeavor, so I asked her why she decided to study Chinese. She said that she was a French teacher from North Carolina, and that her district was cutting the French program, replacing it with Chinese, and they needed her to learn how to teach it. Reactions: Anger (I’m a probable French major looking to eventually teach French), shock (that they didn’t just let her go), and fright (at not being able to find a job as a French teacher in 3+ years). I guess I should start memorizing characters…
  • Today I helped a Chinese professor with the wireless on her laptop. Or well I tried to help her. But I’m learning it’s really hard to troubleshoot a problem when the computer is not in English. Or at least a romance language..

So, needless to say with all this Chinese language school interaction, I’ll pretty much be fluent by the end of the summer.


妵澳李 (Audrey)

欢迎, 歓迎, Приветствовать
June 11, 2010

They’ve arrived!

After weeks of feeling like a ghost-town, the Middlebury campus is now abuzz with future Chinese, Japanese, and Russian Language School students.

Working in Axinn all day, at the “Computing” station of the Welcoming Center, gave me the chance to interact with a lot of the new students. I was surprised at how diverse the people were; apparently Language Schools appeals to everyone from current college students to 80 year-old grandparents.

I was also very surprised at the amount of people coming for these three languages (Chinese, Japanese, and Russian). Out of the three registering today, I assumed Chinese would be the most popular. However, I would say I saw an almost even amount of Japanese and Russian students as well. It was a lot of fun helping them out, be it technologically (I speak fluent BannerWeb now, let me tell you) to simply giving directions to Gifford (“I’d tell you it’s the big stone building at the top of the hill, but that doesn’t really help you”, was my advice to one kid).

Language Schools Welcome Center

Great thanks to LIS for my free lunch at the Grille. I’m also very excited for the volleyball nets put up on the quad next to McCullough.

But most importantly:


Dreaming of the wonderful breakfast panini I will make in the morning,