Everything you need to know about the Academy experience.
Academic Approach │ Language Pledge® │ Your Typical Day │ Curriculum & Classes │ Cultural & Social Events│ Housing & Dining│ Who are your RA’s?│ Talking to Family & Friends│ Is this Program Right for You?│ Make Immersion Easier│ Handbooks & Policies│ Benefits│ College Preparation│ Careers in Language│ Student Outcomes│ Student Testimonials│ What to Pack
Our immersive approach to language learning exposes students to language and culture—not just in the classroom—but throughout their daily activities at the Academy.
The Academy programs consist of four weeks of hands-on language immersion, with a mix of both academic and experiential curricula. Students will work independently and collaboratively in the classroom setting and through opportunities for language acquisition outside of the classroom.
Academy students will receive approximately 125 hours of supervised instruction and an additional 150 hours in the target language during cultural exploration classes, free time, meals and excursions. Students’ commitment to maintaining the Language Pledge® results in tremendous language gains—on average one full language level in four weeks for the large majority of our students.
How Grammar is Taught at the Language Academy
Our curriculum at the Academy includes teaching many grammar concepts, although not as explicitly as in many language textbooks. The curriculum is not organized by grammar topics, and rather than memorizing verb conjugations or sentence structure, Academy language instructors teach grammar more implicitly through usage and the development of communication skills.
Textbooks vs. Authentic Materials
Although students will attend classes for three hours every day during the week, there are no textbooks for students to buy or hours of homework for students to complete. In place of textbooks, our teachers—who are trained in the Middlebury method of immersive language learning—utilize authentic materials to introduce students to new vocabulary and language principles, as well as history and culture. Students might read newspapers in language, watch videos with native speakers or learn about traditional fables, myths and legends through cultural materials. Students are encouraged to bring a dictionary with them to look up vocabulary words that are essential to daily tasks living immersed in language, but that's the only book suggested.
Language & Culture Are Inseparable
Extensive research shows that learning language and culture simultaneously is important for achieving language fluency. As such, our curriculum gives equal weight to teaching tangible language skills, as well as expanding students’ knowledge of various cultures, customs and global perspectives. Academy students pursue a variety of activities that enrich their understanding of the places that speak their language, from cooking and dance classes to lectures on politics, history and art.
“In signing this Language Pledge®, I agree to use [Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic] as my only language of communication while attending The Academy.”
The Academy’s Language Pledge® requires students, faculty and residential advisors to communicate in their target language at all times during the summer of immersive language study. This commitment to staying in language makes for a comfortable and supportive environment for everyone, where students have fun and also learn from making mistakes through living in language.
Modeled after Middlebury College's Language Schools' "No English Spoken Here" policy, the Pledge is an excellent way for students to accelerate their language skills, on average by one full language level in four weeks.
Combined with the rigorous curriculum and cultural activities, the Language Pledge® drives the Academy’s immersion setting which formalizes our dedication to effective language practice for absolute beginners to advanced learners.
Your Typical Day
For four weeks, all programming, events, activities, field trips, meetings and meals will be in the language you’ve chosen to learn. From morning assembly until lights out, you’ll be wrapped in that language with a group of new friends, teachers and residential staff. The curriculum is organized by themes that help you navigate life in this new environment. And it remains consistent for your entire month in the program.
For about 20 minutes after breakfast each morning, all students in each language Academy gather together for a casual assembly. Teachers and residential staff perform skits, show music videos and share creative presentations. It’s fun, unpredictable and all “in language” as you get you warmed up for the day of academic, cultural, and recreational activities ahead.
During the week you will spend about three hours a day in language classes. You will stay with your language level group and follow a course of study specially designed so that you can survive and thrive in a full-immersion environment. There are no textbooks, but there is significant learning and acceleration of language skills.
The Academy’s hands-on “Cultural Exploration” classes are 1½–2 hours long on most weekdays. These classes change every week and revolve around all kinds of amazing subjects including categories such as:
- Film Making
Each week you will be challenged with a new topic, activity, or experience in your target language. And yes… there is a “Survival” elective for true language beginners during the first week of the Academy. Everyone survives, and you’ll enjoy an enduring smile as your comfort increases throughout the first week.
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, you’ll have every meal with your new friends and stay in language. Early on there’s certainly some humor and difficulty when conversing in a language that you’re not yet familiar with. But it’s all great fun. Teachers or RAs will always be present, too, to provide encouragement. Meals are in a college dining hall, and students sit freely with others in their own language academy.
If you have special dietary needs, let us know so that we can accommodate you.
Afternoon activities change every day and may include prose and poetry workshops, musical jam sessions, film productions, small-group cooking classes or painting, sculpture, and collage. You can also choose sports like soccer, basketball, yoga, Frisbee, and swimming. RAs lead all afternoon activities and supply students with the vocabulary they need to have fun and stay in language.
Every day, for about an hour before dinner, your time is your own. You may decide to continue playing soccer, write in your journal, do some laundry, hit the gym, take a walk, chill with friends, take a shower or all of the above.
Evening Activities & Evening Assembly
Evening activities vary day by day. Some days students will spend extra time reviewing coursework with their teachers. Other evenings, RAs will lead Student Interest Clubs, where students can dive deeper into areas of their choosing such as sports, music, yearbook, dance, videography, or theater. Students may have special performances or "Movie Nights" planned in the evening for them as well.
Evening Assembly takes place once a week and is a chance for you to see what your friends have been learning in their language classes. Think songs, skits, games, and interactive activities. It’s usually entertaining and a great opportunity to see how your peers are progressing.
The End of the Day
After evening activities, usually around 9:00 PM, it is your time to meet back in the dorm with your friends and residential staff. Enjoy a snack with friends. Listen to some music. Maybe share a funny story, divulge a recent triumph, or express your thoughts and concerns. Before too long, you’ll be ready to crash, so you can get started again the next day.
On the weekends, you continue with clubs and big Academy events, but there are not usually academic classes. Sleep in a little, linger over brunch and relax after a busy week. Participate in lots of cultural activities and keep speaking in language! This is your time to get some sun and fun in as well. It’s also the time for field trips, dances and special events.
Curriculum & Classes
Our curriculum is designed to engage and immerse students—from beginners to advanced speakers—in language and culture.
The summer Academy is not your traditional classroom setting. There are no textbooks or grammar rules to memorize. Instead, language is learned in the context of authentic cultural materials, using project-based, experiential learning to incorporate grammar and vocabulary with lessons in history, art, cooking and contemporary issues.
There are no tests or grades at the Academy, but students are assessed at the beginning and end of the program to measure starting and ending proficiency levels. After the initial language assessment, students are placed in a classroom with peers of comparable language skills.
Each week, students will be introduced to new vocabulary, ideas, and grammar associated with a range of themes, such as family, food, music, sports and geography. Cultural exploration classes are a large part of the language learning experience, as are daily routines, excursions and activities.
More information about the language classes at the Academy:
- Language classes are held Monday through Friday from approximately 9am-noon.
- There is maximum student-teacher ratio of 12 students to one teacher to create a supportive environment for all language learners.
- Whether at the dinner table or on the soccer field, every moment is turned into a learning opportunity through our full immersion language experience.
Cultural & Social Events
There are a host of Academy-wide events that take place during your four weeks at the Academy. Whether you are competing against other language groups in various activities or socializing as a full Academy group, it’s a great chance to meet other people from all over the world with varied and interesting backgrounds.
Academy Field Day
This is the Academy’s version of “Color War” if you’ve ever attended summer camp. You get to compete against other language Academy groups in both athletic and non-athletic events, while staying in-language with your own group. You’ll wear the colors of your Academy group and cheer on your teammates from the sidelines. It’s a great time to bond and a great team-building experience.
The Academy brings world-class performers and performances to your doorstep. In many situations, you also have the opportunity to be an active participant in the events. Dancers, musicians and artisans are all culturally relevant to your target language and are recognized professionals in their own art forms. Performance are sometimes interactive, always fascinating and tend to receive high marks for being one of the most entertaining part of a busy month of activities.
World Expo Night
A major culminating experience during the last week of the Academy is the World Expo.This is your chance to share your language and cultural learning with your fellow students. Dance performances, singing, skits, historical re-enactments, vocabulary games, cooking special dishes—the sky is the limit. World Expo is a wonderful way to come together as a community. It is as much about sharing your own experience and learnings as it is about enjoying what others have learned and experienced during the Academy.
Housing & Dining
At the Academy, students live in college residence halls and may be placed in a single, double, or triple room, as determined by the Academy location, student body and the space available.
Roommates are chosen by age, gender and language ability. Students may request a roommate if they are coming with a friend; please note that both students need to request eachother for this to happen. We do not, however, guarantee roommate assignments. Please also note that, in keeping with the language-immersion environment, we expect the target language to be maintained at all times, including in the dorms.
A Director of Residential Life and an Assistant Director of Residential life lead the residential team. The team includes Dorm Heads and Residential Advisors who live with the students and provide support. Residential Advisors are fluent in their students’ language.
Most meals are provided at the college dining hall, where students eat with their peers and faculty in their target language groups. Special dietary requirements, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets, can be accommodated in most locations. Please indicate any special requirements or allergies on your application and by contacting our administrative office as early as possible.
Programs also feature barbecues, picnics and informal snacks. If students are away on a field trip during mealtime, their meals will be provided at an alternative site. In such cases, the Academy may have less ability to meet individual dietary requirements.
Who are your RAs?
Residential Advisors (RAs) at the Academy live with students in the dorms, while also overseeing cultural exploration activities, free time and student interest clubs. For every 15 students at the Academy, there is one RA of the same gender who is charged with helping students make the most of their language immersion experience outside of the classroom setting.
RAs at the Academy come from a variety of backgrounds, but all have one thing in common—fluency in a second language. Most RAs are college students or young professionals who are also passionate about language learning and cultural exploration. Many have studied or lived abroad to accelerate their language proficiency, and some RAs have even attended the language Academy in the past.
RAs are trained to support students in every aspect of daily life at the Academy, from ensuring students are on time for their daily activities to helping resolve potential conflicts with roommates to acting as a confidant for a student who might be homesick. RAs also provide ongoing reinforcement of the importance of the Language Pledge®.
Talking to Family & Friends
The Academy's immersion experience is a unique, challenging and ultimately gratifying experience that allows students the opportunity to experience rapid growth both academically and personally. In order to create the most effective living and learning environment, we require students to “unplug” from personal electronic devices like cell phones and computers.
Upon arrival on campus, personal devices will be checked in and securely stored in the Academy office, and only available for use during designated times throughout the week, during which students may call home or check in on social media.
The Academy experience is culturally rich with music, art, dance, laughter and lively conversation so that students learn the benefits of active listening, asking questions and expressing ideas all in-language, in real time. Being “technology free” allows our students to fully engage in the interpersonal interactions that make language learning fun and results in greater language gains from the four-week immersive experience.
Is This Program Right for You?
Only you can know if the challenge of the Academy is right for you, but we aren’t going to lie to you. Immersion is no walk in the park (although Vermont and our study abroad locations are really beautiful in the summer)! It’s challenging. Academy alumni will tell you that living in language 24/7, while making friends, eating meals and taking classes, is hard. But here’s the deal. It’s worth it. Not only will you make amazing strides in speaking your target language, but the Academy experience is personally transformative. We know because students and parents tell us, and we see it for ourselves. Here is how one student described his process of living in French for four weeks:
“If I were to recommend this camp to another person, I would not sugarcoat it. This experience was very difficult for me. There were days when I just wanted to pack my bags and go home, but something kept me here and kept me speaking French and honoring the Language Pledge®. I am so lucky to have been able to be here, and now at the end, I think this is the most satisfied I've ever felt in my life. Although it was tough, it was worth it.”
Only you can decide if the challenge of the Academy is right for you. No matter your background or prior linguistic skills, every year we find that students who are passionate about languages and intrigued with cultural diversity are a great fit for this program. And just remember, the Academy experience is not a solo trek. You are not in this alone. Quite the contrary actually, as the experience is deeply social. Part of the fun of the summer language Academy is being surrounded by so many friends who are also grabbing their pocket dictionaries, throwing words together and getting a laugh.
“The people I made friends with this past month helped me get through my learning of Chinese. Respect and friendship are ever-present. I was expecting not to make any friends at this camp, but I was extremely surprised by how much fun I had and how much I don't want to leave.”
So give it some thought. No doubt that both college preparation and summer fun are on your mind. Camps and travel programs, sister exchange and sports leagues await. But, the difference is that at the Academy, you gain a life-long skill: language proficiency.
Here is our advice: While you are young, make a commitment to be a traveler not a tourist. The life benefits of language proficiency are extensive. In college applications, you can differentiate yourself as language-savvy and culturally versed. You can show colleges, in the most real way possible, that you are dedicated to global citizenship and intercultural exchange. And with true language proficiency, you can make a meaningful difference in the world. Whether working in international business or volunteering at an orphanage, you will have the confidence and capability to cross cultural boundaries, meet people in the middle and understand other world views.
5 Tips to Make Immersion Easier by former Academy Student Samantha Harper
Some people say that in high school, the summer should be as productive as the school year. I wanted to do something with my summer, but I wanted it to be something that I would enjoy, and that would benefit me, not just my college application. The Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy stood out, because I wanted to learn German the real way, in an immersive environment. I wanted to engage with others who were also passionate about learning a language. My perspective on language learning completely changed at the Academy. Immersion works, but it doesn't come without hard work. The key is to start trying, and the rest will follow.
Here are five ways to make the most of your language immersion experience:
- Ask questions. Don't be afraid. Your teachers/RAs/peers are there to help you. Ask about everything and anything. Learn as much as you can.
- Write it down. Yeah, you think you're going to remember all 3,798 words you learned on your nature hike. You won't. Unless you write them down. Write everything down. Then read when you have a free moment, or before you go to bed. It helps immensely.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I understand the paralyzing fear of using a wrong word. Conjugating incorrectly. Butchering the pronunciation. You will make really bad mistakes. (I accidentally asked an RA out. Guess what? I lived! And on the upside, I know how to do that now.) Mistakes. Don't. Matter. You will improve. You will get it right. Maybe even this time. You will never know unless you try. And on that note...
- Talk as much as you can. Practice makes permanent. So talk a lot. Listen to the comments, and repeat what you said with the new word, grammar, etc. Narrate your life. Chat during free moments. The more you do, the better you will get.
- Stick to the Language Pledge®. This kind of goes without saying, but unless you only speak, hear, read and write your language, you're not going to learn as much as you could. I had two Language Pledges. One that I signed on the first day, and one just for me. I am only going to THINK German. It's hard. Much easier to slip up in your head. But the effort, that is what makes it easier. Surrounded by only the language, you really have no choice but to learn.
Handbooks & Policies
Review our policies on the Language Pledge®, technology, calling home, late arrivals, drugs, alcohol, sex and cigarettes. You’ll also find copies of our student handbooks for each Academy location here.
5 Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language
Many college counselors, like our friends at Top Tier Admissions, speak about summer as a time to go “above and beyond.” We couldn’t agree more. Beyond looking great on your college application, learning a foreign language has many benefits that could change your life forever.
Here are just a few:
1. Boost your brainpower
People who speak two or more languages have significantly better overall cognitive abilities than those who speak only one. This includes increased memory, improved problem-solving, critical thinking, and planning skills, as well as an improved ability to multi-task. Your brain is being challenged to switch between languages, as well as to receive input in multiple forms, and then negotiate the meaning. That’s a pretty good workout for your brain, and the result is that your cognitive abilities will improve across all areas -- not just in your language class.
And, a bonus: people who know more than one language are able to pay attention for 20% longer on average than their monolingual friends. (Now that certainly would come in handy during a long class period, wouldn’t it?)
2. Raise your test scores
Students who study a world language for just one year score an average of 38 points higher on the SATs. Even better: students who took four years of a world language showed scores that were more than a hundred points higher on average.
3. Expand your career opportunities
Given the connected global society that we live in, more and more people recognize the importance of learning an additional language, and there is increased value placed on bilingualism. Many professions in the United States and around the world require daily interaction with people who speak many different languages.
If your C.V. includes fluency in a second language you have given yourself an advantage; your chances of landing a job are greater than for people who only speak one language. And guess what else? According to an MIT study, people who know two or more languages earn an average of $128,000 more in their lifetimes.
4. Build a gateway into another culture
Language is the best introduction to a new culture – you are exposed to the cultural traditions that are tied to learning a language. This increased cultural awareness provides for enriched interpersonal experiences such as building relationships, appreciating different ethnic and cultural values, and discovering unique histories and traditions.
Bilingualism is a major asset in an increasingly interconnected world. Having the ability and willingness to engage with many different kinds of people can go a long way in better understanding and tackling global challenges, and in truly making yourself a citizen of the world.
And best of all, you can travel to foreign countries and dive right into the culture. By knowing both language and culture you’ll be able to travel like a local in other countries, and have experiences you could never have as a monolingual individual.
5. Improve your first language
As Geoffrey Willans said: “You can never understand one language until you understand at least two.”
Part of learning a second language is learning the mechanics: grammar, tenses, structures. As you study this in your foreign language, you’ll also gain a new awareness and understanding of your first language. This, in turn, will help make you a better writer, speaker, and communicator—in all of your languages.
How the Academy Prepares you for College
The Academy offers a rigorous four-week language immersion experience for students who are passionate about language proficiency and cultural understanding. While our ultimate goal is to spark lifelong language learning, there is undoubtedly a short-term benefit in the college application process.
Admissions counselors at top-tier colleges and universities look for motivated applicants who challenge themselves to reach their maximum intellectual and personal potential. Since world language proficiency is relatively uncommon among American students, becoming multilingual shows that you are motivated, language-savvy and culturally versed.
Our immersion program, which promises nearly 400 hours of speaking in language over the course of four weeks, can jump-start or accelerate your language learning and highlight the quality of your extracurricular choices to an admissions committee. It will prepare you for a full-immersion experience at Middlebury Language Schools and may even fast-track your career in the global marketplace.
Attend the Academy and let us help you realize your potential and excel in your college years and beyond.
Careers in Language
Will learning a language help you land a great job after college? Yes! Research suggests that knowing at least one other language helps people get jobs and may fast-track careers. In fact, a 2013 CNN Money article asserted that the hottest job skill in America is… fluency in a foreign language! In the new American workplace, shaped by cultural diversity and global interdependence, multilingual candidates are in great demand.
At the Academy, we are passionate about giving you the linguistic and cultural skills to communicate with confidence and thrive in a cross-cultural environment. Whether you want to help migrant farm workers gain rights, broker deals in the international marketplace or teach English as a second language, your work will be more meaningful (and productive) as a multilingual speaker.
Here are five careers that seek bilingual professionals:
1. Translators & Interpreters
Translators and interpreters convert information from one language to another. Translators work in written language and interpreters work in spoken or sign language.
Employment in this field is expected to grow 46% from 2012 to 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This increase is much higher than the rate of 11% for all other occupations combined.
Today translators and interpreters are needed in many settings, including schools, hospitals, Fortune 500 companies, the U.S. State Department and military and police departments, to name a few.
2. Health Professionals
The health care field is striving to improve the quality of health services through delivering culturally and linguistically appropriate services. This means hiring staff members who are multilingual. Numerous health professions have a shortage of multilingual providers including nurses, geneticists, mental health professionals, nutritionists, paramedics and home health aids.
Finance involves the management of money, banking, credit and investments. International finance is a sub-field of finance that deals with monetary interrelations between two or more countries. Employees with a global mindset and language proficiency will have a competitive advantage and will likely enjoy a long and lucrative career.
4. Human Resources
With an increasingly diverse workforce, companies need to hire personnel who can recruit, hire and train employees. Excellent communication skills, including proficiency in multiple languages, is an asset for any company that wishes to build an inclusive and vibrant company culture.
5. Law Enforcement & Intelligence
Building trust and establishing credibility in a community are vital to intelligent and fair law enforcement. Police departments are actively recruiting multilingual officers and detectives. (And the largest police force in Britain now requires officers to be proficient in at least one of 14 languages!)
Living immersed in a new world language 24/7 for four weeks is challenging, but it's also worth every moment of frustration and self-doubt that you might experience during the program. You will dramatically improve your language skills. You will gain confidence communicating in language. And you will learn how to navigate daily life in a new language, including making friends, eating meals, taking classes, playing sports and enjoying free time.
Every year, we hear from Academy students who describe a “lightbulb” moment when suddenly they aren't translating their thoughts from English to a second language, but rather thinking in their target language. Students also tell us that by the end of the Academy, they’ve not only begun thinking in Spanish, French, Chinese, or Arabic, but they've also started dreaming in it.
Tangible Results from a Summer of Language Immersion
The large majority of students who attend the program will gain at least one full level of language learning, equivalent to a year of language study in school. We also see about half of our students gain two (or more!) years of language acceleration during the four-week program.
Students take a pre-test and a post-test at the conclusion of the program to gauge their language growth. Although the Academy is not accredited and, therefore, cannot issue you formal credit for the immersion program, we do send students an end-of-summer progress report that can be presented to your school to be considered for credit. We hear from many students that when they return to school in the fall after a summer at the Academy, they typically can skip a full language level!
During a summer at a Language Academy, students take incredible steps in their language proficiency and pursuit of academic goals. More importantly, they leave the Academy having shared the experience of “living the language” with dozens of peers. After every summer session, we enjoy hearing feedback from these students.
Language Academy Testimonials
Hear from Academy students, teachers, and language directors about their experience living immersed in Spanish, French, Chinese, and Arabic at the Language Academy here.
What to Pack
You've committed to spending four weeks immersed in language at the Academy. Now, what do you need to pack? Here are some of our suggestions for packing for your language Academy experience in the U.S. or abroad.
- Everyday clothes: T-shirts, shorts, jeans, summer dresses (informal), etc.
- Athletic clothing for sports activities
- Dress clothes: Shirt/polo and pants, skirts, dresses, etc.
- Underwear, socks and pajamas
- Sweatshirt and rain jacket (for outdoor activities at night)
- Shoes: Sneakers, flip flops, and a pair of walking sandals with backs
- Bathing suit, beach towel, sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen
- Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, other personal items)
- Alarm clock
- Hair dryer
- Comfortable back pack or day pack
- A language dictionary (suggested, but not required)
- Water bottle
- Musical instruments (for Vermont Academies only)
When packing clothes, think about comfort for a range of activities from relaxing in the dorm, to walking in town, to sports or visits to local sites. Bring enough clothes for two weeks, as you will have access to laundry facilities on site, and keep your clothing with English words on it at home to minimize English pollution. One set of linens is provided for all students at the start of the program.
We urge you to label all belongings, including clothing, with first and last names. In general, we recommend that you leave valuables at home.