Final Notes on Language School

Most people don’t know what they’re getting into when they start Language School at Middlebury. Below is a selection (in English) of a few students who kept public blogs over the summer. The aim here is not to expose these students as English speakers but to give a window into the language school experience. The links go to blogs full of insight on learning, thinking, and feeling in language.

I believe that there is something very special that happens, or is already present, when the most diverse group of people are brought together with one single interest. I can’t remember a time when I’ve been around a more contrasting collection of individuals, from every state, country, and background imaginable. For nine weeks, i studied alongside former army officers, university level faculty, and college students under the direction of some of the most amazing professors i will ever meet. For nine weeks, we literally ate, slept, and lived out a language and culture that many of us didn’t fully comprehend. For nine weeks, we tried our best to make out words, ideas, phrases, and emotion from a script that had been so discouraging of appreciation just weeks before. Over the course of nine weeks, i met a man who spoke 12 languages, a girl who broke down from the pledge to not speak english, a marine soldier, FBI agent, aspiring army  intelligence  officers, hopeful NGO founders, and normal students. Heck, i even met a guy studying arabic in hopes of striking it rich in the oil industry sometime in the near future.

– Arabic School: “Nine Weeks

It was challenging enough studying a language devoid of cultural context – a seemingly purposeful exclusion made by the program administrators. And it was painful to see Arabic treated simply as a tool for American student career advancement, or to hear the same old talking points on the desire to spread “democracy” and “development” to the Arab World.

– Arabic School: “Mapping the Margins

Last Sunday at dinner I got up to get the usual, generous spoonful of peanut butter and handful of chocolate chips for dessert. Minding my own business, I sat back down to find Lin Laoshi (one of my professors) to be looking at me like I was insane. In Chinese she said “What are you eating? (laughter) You are a very strange person!” Uhhh… Thanks? It comes out a little different sounding in Chinese which would be borderline offensive in English if you heard it and translated it the English way (if that even makes sense).

– Chinese School: “Bates Goes Global

This week we had 51 new grammar points and somewhere around 300 new vocabulary words, all of which we were tested on on Friday. It makes for a very long Thursday night if you know what I mean. I think I went to sleep sometime around 3:30am and got up at 6am to review before breakfast. I can remember doing this in high school a little bit because I had so many extra circulars eating away at my early evening study time so I was forced to work late into the night however, at Bates I’m pretty go about getting to bed. Come 11 there I’m pretty much done for. Here, I seem to be channeling high school again; it’s hard to say if that is a good thing.

– Chinese School: “Up Up and Away

…most of my problems I can contribute to one thing: I was in the wrong class. The placement exam was nightmarish, and I am positive that my performance on that exam and in the subsequent interview were the result of nerves and not indicative of how much German I knew coming in. Honestly, for as well structured the classes were, the placement exam was HORRIBLE – with no prior knowledge of how the exam was structured or given, I came in ready to throw up and my brain had shut down from fear before I could write a word. The interview was intimidating with a Blonde German Giantess administering rapid-fire questions, and I subsequently failed miserably.

– German School: “Let’s Mosey

Classes have started, and I am officially drowning in homework. I can’t say I didn’t expect it–but at least we have SOME free time. Yesterday, I went to Lake Dunmore with a bunch of people from the Italian School. I haven’t swum in a lake in years, and it was really nice, even though I got a sunburn under my eyes and across the ridge of my nose.

– Italian School: “Mel Goes to Middlebury

Unfortunately I didn’t really take the time to stop to smell the flowers – and appreciate the beauty of the mountains and the architecture – last summer when I was in Vermont for six weeks studying harder than ever before. This time, however, I reveled in it all.

– Italian School: “A Blog with a view