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Elevating Language Learning | From Access to Action, Maximizing Professional Trajectories through Multilingualism

Elevating Language Learning Series: Elevating Conversations Between Language Students and Multilingual Leaders

About this Conversation:

 JNCL-NCLIS is proud to introduce the first conversation in our Elevating Language Learning Series. In this conversation, Cody Smith, a student with a passion for languages at the University of Louisville, joins Matthew Lilly, a multilingual leader using his talents as the French Program Manager at Xperitas, to discuss the value of language learning and cultural exchange.

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The transcript for the episode can be found below.



Matthew Lilly (00:30):

My name is Matthew Lilly. I'm a program manager at Xperitas. Xperitas is a 50-year-old nonprofit and we organize language immersion programs for teachers and students of French, German, Spanish, and Latin is our newest edition. My background is in French and Italian, and that's why I work with our France and Italy programs. And then prior to working with Xperitas, my background was in K 12 education, so I've taught I think every point of that K 12 spectrum at some point in the past few years. Most of that time being with middle and high school French. So it's really nice to meet you today. Cody, do you want to introduce yourself now?

Cody Smith (01:15):

Yes, it's nice to meet you as well. My name is Cody Smith and I am a student, a third year student, at the University of Louisville where I'm specializing in middle and secondary education and French, but with minors in Latin and Spanish. In the future, I hope to become a language educator and possibly a language professor pursuing graduate studies. And so I'd like to go ahead and ask you the first question that I have for you. How is your leadership affected by your multilingualism?

Matthew Lilly (01:42):

I think the first thing that comes to mind is that I tend to be very dialogic when I work with people. I really like when everyone is in conversation, and I think that probably most likely stems from my background in languages. So at Xperitas we work mostly with short-term outbound study abroad programs. Mostly high school students, but some middle and middle school and a couple of college groups. Really, all of our programs, we focus on authentic immersion experiences. And so thinking about, I guess specifically that dialogic approach, we do a lot of talking to teachers. And so to give you an example of that, I have been developing some of our new programming for Latin teachers and their students in Italy. And through that process, I've just tried to talk to as many Latin teachers as possible, both formally through some structured conversations with set questions that I've been kind of synthesized into these reports that really influenced a lot of our thinking for those new programs. And that's something that fits really well with my personal leadership style is just that idea of getting feedback from members of the language community so that then we can kind of be better citizens of the language community. How about you? How would you say that your multilingualism affects your leadership ability, your work as a student and as a rising professional?

Cody Smith (03:16):

So I would say that it's definitely given me a sort of identity and it's sort of opened a lot of doors for me in my own life. I've been doing this now since 2015, so since that time I've been able to do a number of different things, leadership positions. Back in high school, I ran my school's foreign language club. Now I run my university's French club and I'm also a member of the Latin Honor Society here. And so I've gotten to do a number of leadership roles. I've gotten invited to teach several times, and so it's definitely changed my life and it's given me not only a hard skill, the ability to communicate with people from other cultures, but also a variety of opportunities in my personal and professional life. Tell me about a time when being multilingual made a difference in your work.

Matthew Lilly (04:07):

Multilingualism has really affected my entire professional trajectory. Even as early as the summer after my freshman year of college, I applied to work in the summer program in Switzerland, and I really think that because I already had a strong foundation in French that I was accepted for that position. And then that kind of was a domino effect because that really is what got me involved in education, teaching abroad after I finished college and then continuing to work in education as a classroom. But I have to put in my little plug, I'm an alumnus of West Virginia University, which recently cut all of its language programs, and I think that's a real shame because it was something that has been so essential for my path.

Cody Smith (04:54):

So I didn't have French in school, and part of the reason that I'm becoming a French teacher is because I really want to give access to that to students because I never had a French program back in middle or high school. But coming from a small town like Glasgow, Kentucky, there's not a lot of opportunities to learn languages there. There's a couple of opportunities here and there, but I think that really, especially being able to bring a French program or even build a French program in a small town, or for example at a university, my first, I would say I transferred schools actually during my first and second year, and really that point of access, unfortunately, that first university did not have a French program. It had recently been cut. And so bringing access to places like in institutions like this, my high school or that university, I think that's really my dream.

Matthew Lilly (05:44):

Yeah, I think it's just really admirable that you're so devoted to being in the classroom. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing those thoughts. And just a little bit about yourself. I really enjoyed this. I feel like we just as a community need to be talking about why all of these skills that we advocate for, not just language skills, but cultural competency are so important and especially in a time where we really need to advocate for ourselves. Thank you.

Cody Smith (06:15):

Exactly. Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree. And thank you so much.



This series is made possible by a generous sponsorship from Vista Higher Learning. To learn more, please visit 


About JNCL-NCLIS: Established in 1972, the Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL) and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (NCLIS) unites a national network of leading organizations and businesses comprised of over 300,000 language professionals to advocate for equitable language learning opportunities. Our mission is to ensure that Americans have the opportunity to learn English and at least one other language.

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