By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

While many from Old Dominion University have been staying put over the last few months, a new podcast from the University's Language Learning Center (LLC) aims to bring cultural awareness and give a taste of travel from the safety of home.

"The LLChat Podcast," hosted by Kelsey Norton, a senior majoring in the world languages and cultures and an assistant in the Language Learning Center at the College of Arts and Letters, brings discussions of cultural traditions, language and learning to everyone. The podcast works in tandem with the mission of the center, which is open to students, faculty and Hampton Roads residents to study world languages with technology-assisted methods.

A podcast was something LLC Director and Master Lecturer Betty Rose Facer had long wanted to produce. She and Norton started planning and recording early in the spring semester. With the COVID-19 pandemic closing campus in March, they had the time to commit fully to the podcast, Facer said.

The first few episodes focused on the closing of campus and how students and faculty were adapting to remote learning, then moved to other subjects. And the podcast has become bigger than they originally imagined, Norton said. Recently, she interviewed Todd Nichols, CEO of TalkAbroad, an international language learning platform used at the LLC that pairs native speakers and students.

The podcast builds upon a National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Initiative grant Facer received more than 10 years ago to record language classes at ODU for students to listen to while studying. For example, if a student was having trouble conjugating a verb, they could log in and listen to a class they'd attended earlier.

"I always knew student-created podcasts were the way to go," Facer said.

Norton said it's allowed her to connect with professors and students she wouldn't normally speak with in the World Languages Department.

"It's easy to get stuck in your department, in my case the French department, but now I've been talking to more people in Spanish, Japanese and others I wouldn't normally talk to," Norton said. "It's been good exposure for me and I'm gaining more cultural awareness."

Norton, who also tutors in both French and Latin at the LLC and was recently awarded a Broderick Honors Opportunity Scholarship, hopes the experiences will help her in graduate school, where she plans to teach at the university level and become a translator.

"It's really exciting to travel and teach others a language and about a culture I feel passionate about," she said.

Norton and Facer plan to expand the podcast's guests to branch out into more diverse subjects, including music, culture and advocacy.

The podcast is available for download for free on Spotify, Apple podcasts or the via a link on the ODU website.

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