MIDDLEBURY — As the Middlebury College Language Schools approaches its 100th anniversary next year, geopolitical events often spike interest in a particular language.
That has held true this year with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
“Our best recruitment agent this year is Vladimir Putin,” said Michael Geisler, vice president for language schools at Middlebury, referring to the Russian president.
Middlebury projected enrollment in its Russian summer language school to be 160 students. Instead, enrollment spiked to 196 students, Geisler said.
Interest in the Arabic school has grown to where there are 200 students enrolled this summer, matching last year’s enrollment.
So far, there are 1,488 students enrolled in the 10 summer language programs, surpassing last year’s enrollment, Geisler said. The enrollment could still increase because some of the programs don’t start for two or three weeks.
The interest in the Middlebury program grew to the point where the campus couldn’t handle the demand. So, six years ago Middlebury started its West Coast program in partnership with Mills College.
The summer language schools are known for the “language pledge.” Students pledge to speak, write and interact with each other only using their target language.
Geisler said the school’s total immersion approach is what makes Middlebury so successful and popular.
“The co-curricular activities are a very significant part of what we do because it’s one thing to tell students they can’t speak English,” Geisler said, “but that really doesn’t do the trick.”
He said the activities range from athletics and cooking classes to lectures and music and a lot more.
He said it not only keeps students from using English “but actually encourages them to actively use the language from breakfast to dinner and beyond.”
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the Middlebury College Language Schools’ summer program. It began in 1915 with a summer course in German.
Today, the program has expanded to 10 languages and two campuses.
The Middlebury campus program begins this week with eight-week sessions in Chinese, Japanese and Russian; seven-week sessions in Portuguese, French, German, Hebrew and Spanish; and six-week sessions for graduate-level Chinese, Russian, French, German and Spanish.
At Mills College in Oakland, there is an eight-week session in Arabic; a seven-week session in Italian and Spanish; and six-week sessions for graduate programs in Arabic and Italian. Language sessions at Mills began last week.
Middlebury at Mills is the home for the Arabic and Italian schools.
Next year, Middlebury will add Korean as its 11th summer language.
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