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A Polyglot Campus

By Carol Brévart-Demm


This summer, Swarthmore will become a host site for the Middlebury-Monterey Language Institute, a residential program for high school students. The program’s pledge “No English Spoken Here” ensures full-immersion foreign language learning for four weeks.

Everyone knows that the best way to learn a foreign language is to speak it—as much as possible. And that’s exactly what approximately 200 high school students will be doing on Swarthmore’s campus this summer, when the College becomes a host site for the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy (MMLA). The MMLA offers the four-week residential language immersion program in five other states across the country, teaching Arabic, Chinese, French, German, and Spanish. Students residing on Swarthmore’s campus will focus on Chinese, French, and Spanish.

Patricia Maloney, the College’s director of summer programs says she’s delighted to have the MMLA on campus.

“We’ve been trying for a number of years to find an academic program that matches the mission of Swarthmore—a sound, rigorous program with an excellent reputation—and we believe we’ve found that in the MMLA,” she says.

According to Maloney, approximately 70 foreign language teachers and professors from high schools and colleges, including Swarthmore, have been encouraged to apply, says Maloney. They will cover a curriculum that includes instruction in language and culture during daylong programs that run from 9 a.m. to 9:15 p.m.

On arrival, the students must take a language oath promising to speak only in their target language for the duration of the program—whether participating in language classes; study halls; dining; activities such as sports, ethnic cooking, or dance classes; chess; and field trips. They must surrender their cell phones and laptops, receiving them only to contact their families at given times. Participants will live in Willetts residence hall, divided into groups according to target languages and remaining together, except for Saturday evenings, when all students gather for a social, at which dances representing the various nationalities are performed.

“This is really pretty hard-core language immersion,” says Maloney, adding that the College stands to benefit both financially and from the presence on campus of a large group of students of the kind that could find a good match with Swarthmore, as they make their college choices.

Children of Swarthmore alumni who wish to participate in the program are eligible for a discount.

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