David, Spanish Academy Teacher

Students come to the Academy knowing a lot of grammar and vocabulary in their target language, but they lack the ability to communicate well. The immersion experience enables them to improve their communication skills.

“My name is David Brightbill, and I am a foreign language teacher and the department chair at a school nearby here in Philadelphia. And I love foreign language. I love what Middlebury does. And I wanted the opportunity to work with students to really help them along their process of learning.

“I think they come with a lot of energy and a really strong desire to better their—improve their skills as foreign language speakers, primarily.

“A lot of them come knowing a lot of grammar, a lot of vocabulary but they lack the ability to communicate well. And they know that here at Middlebury, that's something that they'll be able to improve upon.

“We have one student that's here from Tel Aviv, and he's not able to study Spanish at his school, because they don't offer Spanish. He has to study Arabic and Hebrew. And so that's why he chose the opportunity to come here to Middlebury.

“I think one thing that helps lead to the breakthroughs is the immersion experience itself. Students are being forced to use the language one hundred percent of the time.

“I think the biggest situation when you see the light bulb go off is when a student is able to make him or herself understood about a topic that they've never studied before. And they see it actually working, and you can see that smile on their face and that expression that they get when they're actually making themselves understood in a completely different language.

“Foreign language education in this country is definitely not where it should be. I think we can look at the world situation currently and see how important language education is. Because when you're teaching a foreign language, you're not just teaching the language, you're teaching about the culture, about ways to interact with other people and communicate well with other people.

“We've devised and developed different experiences for the students, so that they can test their skills and their knowledge of culture. We've taken the students into Philadelphia, to the Puerto Rican area of Philadelphia, where they get to murals that are related to different cultural things. We took them out to a restaurant where they had to negotiate meaning in the restaurant to be able to get the food that they wanted.

“In the world today that is more and more central, in business, in government type of work, you're going to be interacting on a daily basis with people that come from different backgrounds.

“And I think just having an understanding of the fact that people live a different way and there are different norms that they're used to, that experience that a student can learn within a world language classroom will help that understanding. And I think that's part of what happens here at the Academy.”