Highlights from the 2014 Summer Language Academy

A Summer Living Immersed in Language: Highlights from the 2014 Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy

Read about the transformative experiences students and faculty shared during a summer of language immersion at the Academy

August 1, 2014

For nearly a century, Middlebury College’s renowned Language Schools—featuring the motto No English Spoken Here®—have enabled educators, business leaders and those who simply have a love for language, to become proficient in the language of their choice. The Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy has adapted Middlebury College's Language School's full-immersion approach to language acquisition with a four-week summer program for 8th-12th grade students.

This year, middle and high school students from the U.S. and abroad embarked on a fun, exciting and challenging summer experience at the Language Academy. With three domestic locations at Green Mountain College, Pomona College and Swarthmore College and two international locations in Beijing, China, and Comillas, Spain, Academy students practiced their language skills in a variety of full-immersion activities: hands-on classroom learning and experiential projects and activities. On any given day, students participated in cooking projects, watched movies in language, played soccer matches against rival language Academies, engaged in political debates and demonstrated their recently acquired language skills and Language Academy spirit at the World Expo Night event.

Taking place during the last weekend of the Academy, World Expo Night is a special event where students from each language come together to share with other language Academies what they have learned during their time living in language. Some students perform dance routines, while others sing, act out skits, re-enact historical events, play vocabulary games and much more. 

At Pomona College, World Expo Night kicked off with Latin flair as the Spanish Academy performed a traditional Puerto Rican dance routine called Bomba y Plena. This was followed by an incredible Sengalese fashion show presented by the French Academy and a hilariously entertaining puppet show from the Chinese Academy. Not to be outdone, the Arabic Academy presented a fashion show wearing traditional Arabic garments, recited an Arabic love poem by Syrian diplomat, poem and publisher Nizar Qabbani and acted out a moral play about a princess lost in the woods.

A cornerstone of the Academy is the Language Pledge®, a formal commitment that students and faculty sign to communicate only in their target language at all times during their summer of study. The Pledge creates a comfortable environment for everyone, where students of all levels can learn while living immersed in language. Cultural activities provide students with new opportunities each day to apply the language they have learned in a variety of contexts. As an example, this year the French Academy at Green Mountain College honored Bastille Day, also known as Le quatorze juillet, by re-enacting this well known and celebrated French holiday.

The French Academy’s Language Director Marty Wintje, dressed lavishly as Louis XVI, made a dramatic entrance with his trusty servant and bishop by his side. After le roi sent students to the “Bastille” for not paying their taxes, les citoyens joined together to storm and overtake the Bastille. Academy Residential Advisors and students prepared the guillotine and shortly thereafter, all other language Academies watched in awe as two paper maché heads were waltzed around the dining hall, and the French Academy sang La Marseillaise in celebration.

At our U.S.-based Academies, middle and high school students live independently on a college campus. During this first exposure to living in a college setting, students convene at dining halls for meals, which become vastly more complex when needing to use a new language to communicate. This year, an extraordinary display occurred at the Swarthmore College dining hall where the Spanish, Chinese and French Academies enjoyed dinner together. After attending a cultural exploration class on improvisational theater, the Spanish Language Academy showed their spirit with an impromptu flash mob performance to Shakira’s “La La La”. The Spanish Academy’s performance then turned into a competition with other Academies performing their own flash mobs in the subsequent days—all in their target languages.

In addition to the World Expo Night, another highly anticipated event at the Language Academy is Field Day, which is the Academy’s version of color war. Students compete against other Academies in both athletic and non-athletic events, all while adhering to the Language Pledge®. It is a great team building experience and a highlight of the summer for students, faculty and staff members.

While all Language Academy locations in the U.S. took part in this tradition, the French Academy at Swarthmore College brought home the Field Day victory in true language immersion style. French Academy students painted their faces, created posters, learned a group dance called Logobitombo and shouted special chants on their way to victory.

Language immersion was not limited to just our U.S.-based Academies. Language Academy students who studied abroad in Spain and China had the extraordinary opportunity to live in a foreign country, while experiencing culture firsthand through several weekend excursions. The Beijing Academy took a special trip to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City as a way to expand further their knowledge of Chinese history and culture. While some seventeen hours west of Beijing, the Comillas Academy in Spain visited the Albergue de Peregrinos, one of the stops on the northern route of the famous El Camino de Santiago, as part of their cultural exploration class.

All in all, it was a summer of great fun and language growth for students, faculty and staff. We are so proud of Academy students’ dedication to language learning and cannot wait to see how well they have improved their language proficiency once the official student outcomes are issued. In 2013, in just four weeks at the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy, 88% of students accelerated their language learning by one full level, and 45% of all students gain two or more language levels on ACTFL’s language proficiency scale. 

Did you attend the Academy? Share your thoughts and experiences below in the comments section.

Ryan Hunt
Having recently relocated to Vermont from sunny California, Ryan joins the Middlebury Interactive Languages team as the Digital Marketing Manager. After ten years in the electronic entertainment industry having worked on some of the videogame industry’s top franchises, Ryan brings his passion for technology and product marketing expertise to the Middlebury Interactive team. In his spare time, Ryan, his wife and one year old daughter enjoy spending time outdoors and sampling some of the Green Mountain State’s finest local eateries.
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