Language Pledge

What is the Language Pledge? — Что такое Честное слово?

The Language Pledge is a promise from all students to use only the language of instruction for the duration of the summer session until the Pledge is officially lifted by the school’s Director.  You give your word, both orally and in writing, to adhere to the Language Pledge at all times.

It is important to note that students taking the Language Pledge not only promise not to speak English all summer, but also give their word to speak (and read and write) only Russian until the Pledge is officially lifted by the Director.  Speaking other languages such as French and Spanish is a violation of the Pledge.

Even true beginners take the Language Pledge.  Of course, expectations are modified for them, and for the first few weeks their classes will have a fair amount of English. During those first few days, true beginners are expected to use only Russian in all settings outside the classroom.  In slightly higher levels a small amount of English might be heard in grammar explanations.  Your fellow students, teachers, and the director all understand that maintaining the Language Pledge is difficult.  The Language Pledge is most effective when everyone, students and teachers, work together to maintain a Russian-only atmosphere.

Since the founding of the Russian School in 1945, rumors of a “Language Police” have circulated among students.  In 2016, Gloria Sosin, who was among the first graduate students to receive a master’s degree in Russian from Middlebury (1948), recalled that Director Mischa Fayer would wander the dormitories looking for Language Pledge violations, in honor of which students created the rhyme «тише, тише, придет Миша» (quiet, quiet, or Mischa will come).  Students in the early 1980’s even created a film simply titled “The Language Police” (Языковая милиция).  Today, however, there is no Language Police (we think!), we prefer to rely on students and faculty to help each other stay in Russian all summer.