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Saturday, Dec 2, 2023


Author: [no author name found]

An Ivory Tower of Babel

The strength of Middlebury College's language program — grounded in the academic year course offerings, the summer Language Schools and the C.V. Starr Middlebury Schools Abroad — continues and has been buttressed by an increased interest in the school's summer program after Sept. 11. But as Middlebury enters its third century, it appears that the College's focus is falling disproportionately onto certain other aspects of campus life and learning, leaving a historical emphasis on the languages to fall by the wayside.

The fact that so many students study at Middlebury's schools abroad is also testament to the College's worldwide reputation in the field. While it is important not to stereotype Middlebury as purely being a "language school," the College is not marketing language study as heavily as it has in years past, either internally in terms of pure administrative support or externally in College publications like the Viewbook.

Currently, the Viewbook, circulated among prospective students through the admissions office, contains a relatively larger amount of information and photographs highlighting Middlebury's environmental studies program, the sciences, athletics and cultural events, with only slight mention of language departments and their long history of excellence at the College. The representation of language study in the video created for the Bicentennial Celebration, "The Pursuit of Truth," was similarly brief, with more recent initiatives like the commons system granted more airtime.

The Viewbook and like publications need not focus solely on languages or on any part of the many academic programs and activities the College offers. Well-balanced publicity for all departments, reflecting the reality of what students can partake in and experience when they arrive at Middlebury, should be the focus of all admissions-oriented or promotional material. The languages are one of Middlebury's "Peaks of Excellence" and as such should be given equal representation and prominence to reflect the actual esteem in which they are held — on and off campus.

A significant portion of Middlebury's historical reputation of having a prominent language program stems in part from its Language Schools. These attract students of all ages and academic levels to attend full immersion courses in eight foreign languages. The addition of the Arabic School in 1982 and the Portuguese School, which will begin in 2003, are positive indications that the Language Schools are meeting the demands of increased and demand for languages.

Middlebury's schools abroad have flourished with the addition of six new schools since 1995. The expansion of the schools strengthens the language courses offered during the academic year as more students are choosing to travel abroad through the College's language programs and necessitating a growth in the locations of study offered.

As Middlebury attempts to highlight its newest achievements and increasingly popular academic departments, it should not detract from emphasizing the tradition of language study at the College.