By Madeleine Mulford |
February 15, 2023
Two women sit across from each other, with French on the whiteboard behind them.

We all know that learning a new language is valuable. What we don’t know is just how valuable it can be. With such broad applications, students aren’t always aware of the many opportunities new language acquisition can open in our careers and lives.

The Futures in Languages podcast puts real people’s voices, names and stories to that value. In each episode, Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) lecturer Christina Torres interviews alumni from the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. Guests on the podcast share stories of how knowing multiple languages has taken them places — whether it’s another country, a cool internship or a new career path.

Read on to learn more about the podcast from Torres herself.

Why did you start the Futures in Languages podcast?

The Futures in Languages podcast started as an idea I brought up in the first meeting for the Modern Languages and Literatures Alumni Engagement Committee. We were brainstorming ways to engage with our department’s alumni, and I thought a podcast would be a nice way to showcase alumni by offering them a platform to share their stories.

Can you describe the purpose and goals of this podcast?

I’d say this podcast has two main goals. The first goal is to show off our wonderful alumni by inviting them to tell their stories about language learning and what they have been up to since graduation. The second goal of the podcast is to inspire current and future students in our department to persevere in their learning goals and consider the kinds of opportunities and jobs they could have because of studying a language or training to teach English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Who would you recommend listen to this podcast and why?

I would recommend this podcast to anyone who is curious about language learning and culture. Sometimes I think students might hesitate to start learning a language because they’re unsure of what that process will feel like. Our alumni guests have been so wonderfully open about overcoming challenges they have faced while studying languages. They have given advice for future language students, including how to make the most of their time studying in our department by engaging with faculty mentors. Several guests have shared stories about studying abroad and working abroad and the transformational impact of these cross-cultural experiences on their lives. It’s inspiring to hear!

What have you enjoyed most about working on this podcast? 

My favorite part about working on the podcast is getting to talk with the alumni guests! I enjoy hearing about the different journeys everyone has taken both while studying languages and in life after graduation. I’m trained as a TESOL educator, so I always enjoy hearing stories about others’ experiences teaching both in the U.S. and abroad. One thing that’s been fun has been learning about different jobs I hadn’t heard about before. One example from Season 2 was when Noa Tann talked about her internship at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), a think tank in Washington D.C. She shared some of her experiences working on a team that uses publicly available information to study environmental crime and how her Portuguese skills have played a role in her investigations. That’s just so cool!

What are some challenges you’ve faced?

For challenges, I’d say that learning to audio record in my closet “podcast studio” during the pandemic distance-learning semesters had a bit of a learning curve. I’m glad I was able to take some courses at UCF in Instructional Technology while working on my Ph.D. in Education with a focus in TESOL because I learned basic audio recording and editing there. Working with audio has been a fun new skill to develop.

Over the three years that you’ve hosted this podcast, what are some key takeaways you’ve learned from the variety of guests you’ve spoken with?

There are a few main themes that have started to emerge over the last few podcast seasons.

One of the big themes is that language learning opens doors to opportunities. Several alumni guests have talked about opportunities that have come up in their lives because of their language skills or TESOL training when they did not know these opportunities existed beforehand. I just finished an interview for a new episode in this spring 2023 season where the guest shared that language learning opens doors and you don’t know what’s on the other side of a door until you open it. I thought she had a nice way of explaining that takeaway.

Another theme across our episodes is that persistence in learning language pays off. Several of the guests have talked about the “aha” moments when they felt the content of their studies click in new ways. As a fun example, one of the alumni shared an experience haggling for a taxi fare in Colombia and having a confident realization during that interaction that he actually was able to use his Spanish conversation skills!

The next big theme is the importance of faculty mentorship in supporting students through their educational journeys. Alumni guests regularly give shout outs to our MLL faculty who played big roles in motivating them towards the next steps in their educational and professional journeys.

I could talk about more takeaways here like the impact studying abroad has had on a number of the alumni guests, but I’ll invite folks who are curious to listen to the podcast episodes to hear those stories firsthand.

How do you see this podcast benefiting people who are considering a career in languages?

I think of this podcast as a way to help showcase possibilities to our students by featuring our MLL alumni guests. Sometimes, I think students might hesitate to pursue an area of study they are interested in because they’re not sure what kinds of jobs they might be able to get afterwards. In the podcast, we often talk about pursuing areas of study that make us curious to learn more. We talk about academics in an approachable way. Also, here are real people who studied in the department coming back to share how they found their way to their next career steps! I think it’s inspirational, and I hope others do too.

Stay tuned for new episodes of the Futures in Languages podcast.