Episode 25 – Changing Perspectives on Language: A Conversation with Krista Chambless

side by side picture of Norah Jones and Krista Chambless
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 25 - Changing Perspectives on Language: A Conversation with Krista Chambless

“I do hope that people know how important it is to learn languages, just for the connection to other people and for the different perspectives that it brings. I honestly think that our country would not be so divided if more people studied languages, because languages help us to see things from other people’s point of view.

Jump down to listen to the podcast

How’s this for a language teaching moment: Give your grandmother step-by-step instructions on how to fire up her iPad and navigate to your favorite web pages. Is that how you learned a second language? Or are you among those who say, “I took 3 years of _____ and I can’t say a thing”?

In this episode, lively, creative, and skilled Dr. Krista Chambless (bio) shares great stories about and insights into how she trains her own language students and those adults in her teacher preparation courses to recognize their language presumptions and perspectives. Through research and hands-on practice, her students can grow and change their perspectives to ensure languages are more effectively taught and learned.

It’s about creatively challenging core beliefs. It’s about inviting the community around educational institutions to experience the transformation from the analytical courses of yesteryear to the lively, relevant, and inclusive language courses of today.

In this episode, Dr. Chambless shares her delightful approaches to such training, her Step into Mondays life-saving podcasts (see her bio), and her commitment to connecting and transforming perspectives, not only on language teaching itself, but on how language and language learning can heal society and and bring us closer together.

Enjoy the podcast.

Click to listen:

It’s About Language – Episode 25 – Changing Perspectives on Language: A Conversation with Krista Chambless

Scroll down for full transcript.

You can also find this week’s episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

Want to hear more? Access previous episodes, and get to know the wonderful people I talk with through the It’s About Language page, or by clicking on the Podcast tab above.

Interested in learning more about language and cultural education and advocacy? Looking to learn more about and/or apply Gallup Strengths in your team or organization? Check out the Services tab to see how I can be of help to you.


Norah Jones:                     And we will get started. And folks, it is a great pleasure today for me to welcome my friend and very special guests, Krista Chambless. Hi Krista.

Krista Chambless:            Hello.

Norah Jones:                     Krista is Associate Professor of Spanish, French, and Foreign Language Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and also the Director of the Elementary Spanish Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the upcoming president of SCOLT, and so many wonderful things. Krista, what made you go into world language education, and what’s the big thing that you are bringing right now in world language education to other instructors?

Krista Chambless:            Well, I come from a long line of teachers. My great grandmother was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Alabama. So, teaching is in my blood and I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher, I just didn’t know what I wanted to teach. And I had a fabulous high school French teacher, and I thought, “Well, this is it. This is what I want to do.”

Norah Jones:                     Awesome.

Krista Chambless:            Right. Teachers, we have such a powerful influence sometimes that we don’t even realize. And so, I came down to the University of Alabama, and back then we didn’t have all the highly qualified and you actually had to be able to teach two subjects. So, I decided I-

Norah Jones:                     Interesting.

Krista Chambless:            … would take Spanish just to see, because I thought, “Well, I don’t like science and nobody wants me to teach math because two plus two is about the extent of it for me, you know?”

Norah Jones:                     Yes.

Krista Chambless:            So I thought, “Well, let me just take some Spanish.” And of course I loved it too. And I thought, “Well, this is it. I’ve found my home.” So, there you have it.

Norah Jones:                     That’s awesome. So, why do you think personally, because this does relate to what you do with your students, with educators, what do you think was the reason that you fell in love with languages?

Krista Chambless:            Well, I love to talk to people, I love to connect with people, I love to get to know people. And now, with English, Spanish, French, I can connect with so many more people, because that’s what it is all about for me. And I just thought it was so fascinating, and all of the cultures and the different ideas and the different ways that you can do something. And it’s not necessarily right or wrong, but it was just so fabulous. I’ve made so many wonderful friends all over the world. And my Facebook feed, I even have friends… I spent some time in Italy and I can read Italian, like Novice High Italian. And so, I’ve taken some German and I have some German friends. And so my Facebook feed is just all of these different languages and all of these different cultures and perspectives, and it’s so fabulous.

Norah Jones:                     You bring a lot of passion and energy to what you just expressed about it being so fabulous and making these connections. When you get in front of other instructors or those that want to develop into world language teachers and professors, what do you find especially effective in reaching them with that passion, or how do you tap into theirs?

Krista Chambless:            Oh, that is a really tough question. I think you have to, again, get to know the teachers and know their background. So I always like to start out with how many are new teachers, less than five years, more than 5, to 10, because everybody brings such a different perspective. And let’s face it, when you’re still new, you might still be so overwhelmed with everything that you have to do. And then of course, as you get more experienced, sometimes you experience that burnout, right? Or you’re like, “I just can’t keep up with all the latest trends and what they say we should be doing now,” right?

Norah Jones:                     Right.

Krista Chambless:            Because language… Well, any kind of education, it seems like the pendulum swings from one extreme to the other. And so you’re like, “Well, I don’t know. Five years ago they said to do this, now they’re saying, ‘Don’t do that, do this.'” And so, that can be frustrating and a source of burnout as well. And I think right now during the pandemic especially, all of the teachers are so overwhelmed and thinking they have to do all the things, and you really don’t.

Norah Jones:                     That’s interesting. So therein lies my next question, mitigating that sense of being overwhelmed, helping folks to get that perspective, how do you go about doing that?

Krista Chambless:            Right. Well, when ACTFL first came out with their Six Core Practices for Effective Language Teaching, I did several workshops and I could see the teacher’s faces just falling and their eyes glazing over and they’re thinking, “I’m never going to get this.” And it’s so interesting that we’re talking about this now, because SCOLT did a workshop, Greta Lundgaard had a fabulous workshop about the core practices and the TELL domains and all of that for teachers. And you could see some of them going, “Oh my gosh, I’m never going to be the effective teacher that I want to be.” And I always tell them that Rome wasn’t built in a day and they need to pick one. You just pick one to focus on at a time, because if you do look at all six of them, you’re going to think it’s impossible.

Norah Jones:                     Yeah.

Krista Chambless:            And so, they need to really sit back and reflect on their teaching. And so I like to take a little bit of time and I say, “Okay, if it’s the 90% target language comprehensible input, write what you think about this and how you think you’re doing in your class.” And we go through all of them and let them reflect for a few minutes on where they think they are in all of those terms. I’m like, “Okay, now looking back at your reflections, you pick the one you think you need to work on the most, and that’s going to be your focus for the year. Yes, the entire year, that’s the one you focus on.”

Norah Jones:                     Okay.

Krista Chambless:            You know?

Norah Jones:                     Mm-hmm [affirmative]. And the TELL you referred to as the Teacher Effectiveness for Language Learning series of-

Krista Chambless:            Yes.

Norah Jones:                     … pieces of information. And when you, as the person that works so much with world language professional development, are working with people, do you see tendencies of teachers of world language to have specific problem with one of those areas more than others, or one or two of those areas more than others?

Krista Chambless:            I think it depends on the person, I think it depends on how long they’ve been teaching, because some of the more experienced teachers may not have seen backward design.

Norah Jones:                     Okay.

Krista Chambless:            It’s been around for a while, but it wasn’t necessarily taught as the most effective way to plan. And so I think for some of the more experienced teachers, backward design and the whole concept of essential questions, enduring understandings, those kinds of things are a little bit challenging because of the way that they were taught to teach.

Norah Jones:                     Interesting. And because of your position with the university and because of your leadership, what are you seeing as far as helping the preparation of teachers coming from various directions to be better prepared?

Krista Chambless:            Well, that’s interesting. I just have been working on the revision of the CAEP-ACTFL Standards for Teacher Education. There are six standards for teacher education, and I worked on Standard 1, which is the teacher language proficiency. And so, that has been one of my areas of interest because of course, if you do not have a high proficiency level, and ACTFL says you should have at least Advanced Low, then how are you going to provide the necessary input, much less make it comprehensible for your students? So I think a lot of teachers, that when they get hung up on, I can see it with my own method students. We actually looked at the Glisan and Denato book, the High-Leverage Teaching Practices, about how to make yourself comprehensible, I had a guest come in and do a lesson and everything. And so, they were like, “Well, okay. Yeah, I can see that.” But what I found really interesting is that we watched a video, it was an old Annenberg video. Do you remember those?

Norah Jones:                     I do.

Krista Chambless:            Okay. So, they are old, but-

Norah Jones:                     They are actually, my eyeballs are out just a little bit here.

Krista Chambless:            Yeah, they are, but there is a really great one about connections, where this teacher in Spanish is teaching them about a McDonald’s menu and he’s tying in how much protein, how many carbohydrates, so he’s tying in nutrition, he’s making that connection and, “Oh, what happens if you have too much cholesterol?” And he’s teaching all of that to them. And I still think that is such a powerful lesson to show connections, because for some reason my students were having a really hard time with, “What do you mean by connections? Is it that culture?” I’m like, “Well, yes, you can make cultural connections, but there’s also discipline-specific connections.” So I show them that video, and the first thing they commented on was, “Wow, he did all of that in Spanish. He did all of that in the target language.” And I was like, “Well, yes, we talked about how you can do that,” but they actually saw it in action.

Norah Jones:                     Interesting that you bring that. So for those that are not as familiar with the National World-Readiness Standards as we call them, from ACTFL, that connections piece, that discipline piece, which you just talked about is using language as a tool.

Krista Chambless:            Yes.

Norah Jones:                     Tool for life, not a topic per se.

Krista Chambless:            Right.

Norah Jones:                     So, as you chew on that just a little bit for us, okay, add about how teachers have been, or maybe continue to consider grammar in world language instruction.

Krista Chambless:            Yes. Okay. So that one is probably the toughest. The teaching grammar as a concept is really tough. And I think that-

Norah Jones:                     I nailed it didn’t I?

Krista Chambless:            Exactly, yes. And I think that goes back honestly, to teachers’ core beliefs about how languages are learned.

Norah Jones:                     Oh, good. Riff on that.

Krista Chambless:            And I think that sometimes, again, we’ve made huge strides in second-language acquisition research in the last 40, 50 years. And now we know so much more, right?

Norah Jones:                     Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Krista Chambless:            And if you look at all of that research, it has such strong implications for our teaching and what goes on in the classroom. And unfortunately, I think research has gotten a bad rap with a lot of teachers, they think, “Well, I don’t want to know the research. I want you to tell me what to do in the class.” And it’s like, “But this research is going to tell you what to do in the class.”

Norah Jones:                     Interesting.

Krista Chambless:            So I think everybody needs to know certain core basic principles of second-language acquisition, and really think about their beliefs about how languages are learned, acquired, et cetera. And sometimes though, we know from research that teachers are going to teach the way they were taught. And so sometimes it’s hard to overcome that. I had a group of method students a few years ago, most of them were native Spanish speakers who were taught in other countries. And they were taught from a grammatical syllabus. And so we talked about their language learning experience, and how when they set foot in the United States, they were unprepared. So I’m like, “Okay, so obviously the grammar instruction did not really prepare you for communication tasks in the real world.”

Norah Jones:                     What an interesting reflection.

Krista Chambless:            An and they were all… Right? And so we were talking about all this stuff. And then we get to the whole grammar as a concept and they were like, “Nope, you got to teach them the verb conjugation.” They need these verb charts. And I’m like, “But you said earlier, you remember?” And they just absolutely would not see the connection because they were taught verb conjugation charts, and therefore that is what should be done.

Norah Jones:                     So even though, right in front of you, you held up a bit of a mirror, that didn’t carry over, I’ll be kind here, well to the next stage of applying this in their own instructional approach?

Krista Chambless:            Exactly. So I think the first thing you have to honestly do, if you’re going to be looking at grammar instruction, is look at your own core beliefs about language learning and what do you know, and perhaps even seek out some research. And Bill Van Patten has written a really good book, While We’re on the Topic, it’s very simple, easy language, doesn’t get so researchy if you will. And I read it and I found it to be very helpful about what language is.

Norah Jones:                     Is that the title of it, What Language Is?

Krista Chambless:            No, it’s called While We’re on the Topic.

Norah Jones:                     Oh, sorry. Well, okay.

Krista Chambless:            Yeah, and it’s called While We’re on the Topic: BVP and Language Acquisition and Classroom Practice. And I use that in my methods class too. And my students have really gotten a lot out of it because they’re like, “Wow, I didn’t know this. I didn’t know that.” And so it is working to change their beliefs about language learning, but until someone really examines that, you’re not really going to change the way that they teach anything.

Norah Jones:                     And how do you go about helping them to do that? I mean, reading this book, for example, is one of the pathways. What are some others that you have found?

Krista Chambless:            Well, honestly I think that the proof is in the pudding, if you will, they have to try it. I had a student several years ago, when we talked about grammar as a concept, and we had talked about the PACE Model, which is a way of presenting grammar in context, and having the students figure out the rules, if you will. And she was like, “That would take forever. That’s going to take too long. I don’t believe this.” I said, “Try it.” So, she was already in the classroom working on her alternative certification. So she tried it with the French subjunctive, and she came back in, she was like, “Oh my goodness, Dr. Chambless, It was fabulous.” She said, “They got it so fast, I have two extra days in my unit that we’re getting to do all sorts of fun stuff because I don’t have to keep beating him over the head with the subjunctive.”

Norah Jones:                     Interesting. What a breakthrough.

Krista Chambless:            Yeah. So sometimes I’m like, “You know what? You guys are just going to have to try it and you’re going to have to believe it.” That’s just like with the 90% target language and that it can be done even in one-on-one.

Norah Jones:                     Yes, indeed. And I’m going to come back to just a moment, is the time that was saved a sense of urgency that proceeded even that?

Krista Chambless:            Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Norah Jones:                     And let’s take a look at where folks are preparing now, learners of language to go in careers, into this country and beyond the idea of global citizenship or at least global interaction, I believe you have, I know I do, a sense of urgency with regard to, we have to approach language learning and teaching, not like it was some 18th century discussion group.

Krista Chambless:            Right.

Norah Jones:                     But for application purposes, are you finding that this can tie in? Could you address some of that sense of that, the global urgency, if you will, with regard to your work and what you’re experiencing with those that you help in this way?

Krista Chambless:            Oh, I think so. I think that, yes, we are changing the way that we look at language and the necessity of language, because in the past it has been, “Well, it’s only necessary for those who are college bound or who are going to teach this or do this particular thing,” but now, we’re seeing, especially with the pandemic that we are a really small world and we can connect with other people online so very easily. And so, language skills are not just nice now, they are becoming necessary. And I think the more that we see that, and we talk about that in our classes, and we show them the real-world language applications, and we use those in our classes, I definitely think that is going to shift everyone’s idea about the importance of language learning.

Norah Jones:                     Yeah. Thank you. What are some of the key aspects of that different shift that have implications in the way that you approach professional development, approach your online presence in helping?

Krista Chambless:            Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Well, I think that when you talk with teachers, we have to talk about relevance, is this relevant? Is this real life? And that’s one thing I think my method students were really surprised about when I would show them different ideas, different ways to approach a particular theme or topic. And they’re like, “Oh, that makes more sense,” because what they were doing is they were finding a video on something and they’re like, “Okay, let’s answer some comprehension questions.” And I was like, “Well, what’s the point of this? Why would I be watching this video about Spain’s top five countries? Oh, perhaps I’m going to Spain. And I only have time to visit two of these places. So I have to decide which two, and I have to convince my friend, who’s traveling with me.” I’m like, “That is something that very much could happen in real life.” Whereas, otherwise you’re not just going to watch the video to watch the video most of the time.

Norah Jones:                     Most people do not go to the movies in order to take a quiz afterwards on the-

Krista Chambless:            Right? Exactly.

Norah Jones:                     It’s so fascinating. And changing these approaches, changing these underlying beliefs must bring you a tremendous number of interesting stories when you’re in front of people?

Krista Chambless:            Oh. Well, yeah. And that’s the thing about the world language community honestly, is we are very collaborative I think, and we’re always willing to share and willing to help and to bounce ideas off of each other. I think we have a wonderful professional learning community in world languages. And so if you’re struggling with a topic, you can put it out in the Twitterverse and say, “Hey, language peeps, I need some help with this. What should I do?” And you are going to get some wonderful responses. So, yeah. And when you’re up in front of people, a lot of times, you definitely hear some very interesting stories.

Norah Jones:                     I can well imagine.

Krista Chambless:            Yeah, but it’s always just so much fun. It’s such a joy to work with other teachers. And like I said, I get as much from doing workshops as hopefully the people participating get. It’s fabulous when you see a group working together and it’s like, “Oh, we could do this,” and, “Oh, we could do that.” And they start really getting into it and collaborating and coming up with a fabulous thematic unit or something like that. And it was really interesting, again, one of my method student’s like, “I’ve got to teach commands. I don’t know how am I going to teach commands and make it relevant?” And I was like, “Oh, I got a good one for you.” And it’s like, you’re going to have them teach their grandmother how to use an iPad or an iPhone or something like that, you know?

Norah Jones:                     Yeah.

Krista Chambless:            And because that is a real-life situation, my mother calls my children all the time, “I can’t get such and such to work. What about this app? And how do I do that?” And they’re giving commands, “No Gran, click here, touch this, slide that.” And so, that’s the real world where these kids are going to say, “Oh, that’s why I need to know these command forms, I get it.”

Norah Jones:                     I get it. That’s very cool. Now, you’re talking to, and yes I confirm that world language educators are very collaborative by nature, and I appreciate the collaboration that you invited me to in your life, even there in Alabama so thank you. The question I have now is, how does this backfill into, say, the kinds of things that community members expect, that boards of education expect, that family members expect of languages? This is a new paradigm for teachers who are in the midst of the profession, how does it then help to change this country?

Krista Chambless:            Oh, wow. I think it’s a slow process. That’s one thing that we have to realize, but I think so many times teachers… I mean, parents rather, parents are shocked at the new ways that languages are being taught.

Norah Jones:                     Interesting.

Krista Chambless:            They’re like, “Why are you speaking nothing but Spanish in class? You need to speak English, my kids don’t understand Spanish,” right?

Norah Jones:                     Yeah.

Krista Chambless:            You get that a lot. And my response is always them, “Well, when they quit using numbers in math, I’ll quit speaking Spanish in Spanish class.” I mean, it’s-

Norah Jones:                     That’s a good response. I like that.

Krista Chambless:            … it’s the same thing. And so, you have to do a lot of educating of the parents as well, and your administration. And so, I always tell my teachers to invite the administration in to see all the cool things that you’re doing, show them how, even though you’re speaking the target language 90% of the time, they are still able to understand and know what is going on. At open house a lot of times, you can actually do a little mini class and greet them in the target language and start doing a little mini lesson, you say, “That’s what your kids are getting. Do you see how you could understand it? Well, that’s what we’re doing in class.” And really trying to educate the parents and the administration, and even invite your board members if you want to. But in terms of the community at large, I think we have so many opportunities now, with social media and with the internet and different things.

Krista Chambless:            You can certainly have a world language showcase and invite community members in. One thing that Sandrine Hope and I, my co-host of the podcast, we actually are doing some sessions now on using podcasts in language classes. And one of the things that we talk about is that students can produce their own podcasts. And even the novice level, you could do it in English on a cultural topic and put that podcast out there for the community so that they can learn about whatever it is that you’re learning in class. You could even do social-justice-type issues or start a recycling program and put up all the recycling stuff, and do it in all the different languages that are taught at the school. There are lots of opportunities for that kind of outreach, and show the community, “Hey, this is what we’re doing. This is how cool languages really are.” And it’s going to be that trickling-out effect, I think.

Norah Jones:                     Yeah. So you’ve got advocacy going in the direction of both why languages are important, and then advocacy in the direction of how languages are actually taught and learned well. Speak more about the podcast, please.

Krista Chambless:            So, what you do in class or my particular one?

Norah Jones:                     Your particular one.

Krista Chambless:            Okay. So, Sandrine Hope and I have been friends forever. And then she went back to get her teaching credentials, all that kind of stuff. And we would go to conferences together. And on the way home, we would just have these brainstorming sessions, “Well, I went to the session, what does that actually look like in class?” And so we thought, “We should just record ourselves,” because so many times teachers will go to a workshop or they’ll go to a conference session, and let’s face it, in 45 minutes you’re throwing things at them, right? And you don’t really have time to show them what it looks like in class. And so we thought, “Well, we can just show them our brain at work and how you take this theory or this idea and put it into practice in the classroom.”

Krista Chambless:            So, that’s what we hope to do. We invite guests on from time to time, we had Bill Van Patten to talk about language learning, and we’ve got some other great guests coming up this spring too. So that’s where we started with that. And what we’re hoping that we do, we’re hoping to help teachers, see how you put it into practice.

Norah Jones:                     Imagine, making it practical. And the name of your podcast, because it also will be my website for sure, but right here during this podcast?

Krista Chambless:            Yes, it is Step into Mondays!

Norah Jones:                     Step into Mondays! And those of us that have been in the educational world know that Sundays are when we feel like running far away. So, Stepping into Monday! sounds like a great promise. And that’s fantastic, that you would do that, that very practical approach.

Krista Chambless:            Yes.

Norah Jones:                     And what kind of feedback do you get? What types of experiences have you seen from sharing then, those podcasts and the related events that you and Sandrine do quite often?

Krista Chambless:            Okay. So that’s really interesting. So we had an episode a few weeks ago about how to maintain your own language proficiency, because we work so hard to get our language proficiency up to at least Advanced Low, or maybe even higher. And then you may go into teaching and you’re so overwhelmed, right?

Norah Jones:                     Yeah.

Krista Chambless:            And you’re teaching level one, so you can find your proficiency slipping. So we had a message from a listener who said, “Wow, that really convicted me because I’ve really let my proficiency go into the point where now I don’t even want to talk with native speakers anymore,” or anything like that. And so, that’s really inspired me to get back on to some things that I need to do to build up my proficiency. So you’ve got those kinds of things. And we get lots of ideas, “Oh, hey, I was thinking about this. You can always do this and that.”

Krista Chambless:            And so, they’ll share some of the ideas that they have and went, “Wow, that’s really good.” But one thing that we have been asking our listeners is to share funny stories about when they’ve messed up in languages.

Norah Jones:                     Oh boy.

Krista Chambless:            Because we did a little 20-minute mini episode of our language mistakes. And I mean, some of them were just horrendous and so funny, but we put out the call for months now, and no one is willing to share any of their funny mistakes.

Norah Jones:                     Oh, I need to know about that, because I would be sharing an embarrassment that I’m surprised that the world didn’t crack in half about. So I’m quite confident you’re going to get somebody, but if you ever want a story, I can definitely give you one.

Krista Chambless:            Oh, okay. Well, we’ll have to do that because yeah. So they don’t want to do that, but otherwise, they’ll respond with, “You could do this or you could do that,” or, “Hey, thanks for this listen.” Especially, we did one during the beginning of the pandemic about cutting yourself some slack, because we’re also hard on ourselves sometime, you know?

Norah Jones:                     Oh, no question. I bet you have people that feel like they’re never going to recuperate from hearing the brand new things they should be doing, they’ve been doing it all wrong, right?

Krista Chambless:            And that’s the thing. Honestly, I felt that way last summer with all of the just inundation of webinars on the new tech tools. And what I discovered in the fall was I need to choose one or two and I just need to go with those because my kids are already overwhelmed too. And so I can’t keep throwing all these new things at them. And so, Jamboard and Pear Deck, those were my go-tos, and that’s what I’ve stuck with. I haven’t wanted to introduce a whole lot of other new tech because they’re overwhelmed too. I mean, you think you’re overwhelmed? So are the students.

Norah Jones:                     Yes. Oh boy. Are they-

Krista Chambless:            So you just have to cut yourself some slack and go, “You know what? I’m doing the best that I can do. And I don’t have time to look at this new tech tool. I’ll think about it over the summer, but this is what I know, this is why students are comfortable with, this is what I’m going with.”

Norah Jones:                     And I’m going to turn and say, I bet that when that story gets deep inside educators, that that can help to then show up with how they work with their students, because learning languages, there’s a lot of people that listen to these podcasts, I know that are like, “I can’t do that. I took three years of Spanish, I don’t remember a thing.” Our famous joke, right?

Krista Chambless:            Yeah, right.

Norah Jones:                     And so, there’s a sense of, “Yes, you can.” And here are some of the pathways to limit expectations such as to, well, like you were giving that story where the person said, “I’ve got two extra days to have fun now because I changed the way I thought about some things and approached it differently.” Fascinating. Do you think that that helps young people coming into classes?

Krista Chambless:            What does?

Norah Jones:                     The idea of focusing, not trying to do everything, not trying to be perfect about everything.

Krista Chambless:            Oh, absolutely. I do. And that’s one thing I tell my method students, I’ve been telling them all along, because most of them are already in the classroom. There is a language teacher shortage, so they are learning to teach while teaching. And so sometimes, they beat themselves up, “Oh, I’ve been doing this all wrong.” And I’m like, “Hey, you know what? You didn’t know, but now you know. So, now you know better, you’ll do better.” And that’s our motto in the class. I said, “Guys, you didn’t know, so it’s all good. Now you do, so we’ll fix it.” And I do that with my students though, in my language classes, everything is phrased. The can-do statements, I think have really kind of changed the way students even look at language because now we’re looking at what they can do rather than what they can’t do.

Krista Chambless:            And so, that positivity also bleeds over into the rest of their life, “Well, I can do this, maybe that wasn’t as successful, but look what I did do.” And so I think there are so many things that we’re doing in language classes that are applicable across the board.

Norah Jones:                     Do you think that that sense of, “You didn’t realize this, now you do, now you can do something about it,” might apply to the attitude of the United States towards world language learning in general?

Krista Chambless:            Oh, absolutely. Yes. We now know that it’s best to start learning languages as early as possible. We now know the importance that it is for us to all know languages. The pandemic, like I said, has shown that. There were some horrendous things up on websites in Spanish, because they used an online translating device rather than a human being. And so, yeah, I think definitely now we know better, so let’s do better. Absolutely.

Norah Jones:                     Now we know better, let’s do better is right. Speaking of knowing better, doing better, this is my opportunity for you to turn one last time now to the listening audience, you have a chance for one last invitation, exhortation, warning, whatever you’d like, turn to the audience, what do you want them to know before we end today?

Krista Chambless:            Well, I want everyone to know that we’re all doing the best that we can to get through life. And yes, once you do know better, then you absolutely should do better, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do everything because we’re only human. And so you have to pick what you think is the most important, get your priorities and take it from there, absolutely. I do hope that people know how important it is to learn languages, just for the connection to other people and for the different perspectives that it brings. I honestly think that our country would not be so divided if more people studied languages, because languages help us to see things from other people’s point of view.

Krista Chambless:            It also helps us to look at our own point of view from another person’s perspective. And we don’t have that right now. We see things from our point of view and our point of view only. And that’s why we’re so divided, because most people can’t look at things from multiple perspectives, and that’s where language learning can come in and help. I’m not saying it’s going to solve everything, but I think it would make us a little more empathetic and make us realize that there is more than one way to look at something.

Norah Jones:                     Thank you for that wonderful perspective, Krista, and for sharing it so eloquently. Thanks too, for everything that you’re doing to continue to bring that perspective into the education world and well beyond, not to mention, just a lot of joy there, really appreciate that.

Krista Chambless:            Well, thank you. This has been a lot of fun.

Norah Jones:                     It’s been fun for me too. I’m definitely going to be encouraging listeners to check out your podcast with Sandrine. That’s again, Step into Mondays! And also to follow the pathway of understanding that there are world language organizations such as SCOLT, the Southern Conference on Language Teaching, which Dr. Krista Chambless here is leader. And we thank you again, Krista for sharing today.

Krista Chambless:            You’re welcome.

Become a Sponsor

Leave a Reply