When the Language Pledge Fails

Finally truth about language the language school surfaces? Illegal English:

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.

So the registered trademark of Middlebury, “No English Spoken Here,” is not as pure and sacred as one might think, but that doesn’t mean the schools aren’t good. They still are probably the best way to learn a language in an immersion environment. Even abroad, the temptation to speak English can be far worse because you have to deal with culture shock in addition to your inability to speak.

The English Spoken Here post does a good job describing why people break the pledge — language school is stressful. There is no outlet, no English music, no NYTimes.com. But the post misses the differentiation of Middlebury undergraduate students vs. other institution students. My guess is that language pledge violators are more often Middlebury students who know the campus, know English-speaking people on campus, etc. I also ponder how the honor code plays in to Middlebury undergrads studying languages during the summer — what duty do non-language school students have in keeping other students’ pledge and is there a duty to report peers breaking the pledge?

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One thought on “When the Language Pledge Fails

  1. From the perspective of someone who works as a Bilingual at the Language Schools, it’s pretty obvious that Middlebury undergrads are far more likely to break the Pledge than their fellow students who come from other places. In fact, at the beginning of every summer session, the Spanish School has a special meeting for year-round Middkids to tell them to stay in line and not feel entitled to break the Pledge.

    For most Language School students, Middlebury feels isolated, new, and contextless; for a year-round Midd student, it feels almost like home.

    So I guess it makes sense that being in such a familiar place but living under such unfamiliar rules and pressures would increase the temptation to speak English. Not to mention that a bunch of your friends are just across Battell Beach, relaxing and speaking easily with absolutely no homework.

    Not condoning breaking the Pledge, of course–if anyone is the “language police”, it’s me–just saying that Middlebury undergrads at Language School (a minority) respond to different pressures than non-Middkids. And Middkids are much more visible to summer staff people.

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