A: Dry Branch, Georgia
Q: What brought you to UGA?
A: I went to Georgia Southern and was a Spanish major. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I went to Graduate School. I wasn’t into Spanish Literature so I chose Spanish Linguistics. After Graduate School, UGA was the best job offer I got so I came here!
Q: What are your research interests?
A: I work on language variation and language linguistics. I mostly study Portuguese, Spanish and Quechua.
Q: What led you to be interested in socio-linguistics?
A: I was studying Spanish and I started to observe that there was a constant resetting to the places I was going. Everyone speaks differently. There are so many different accents and dialects. As a transplanted Southerner in Ohio, I got asked constantly about my southern accent because not everyone speaks the same way. It is interesting to me to think about how people think they are hearing an accent. Also, I think it is interesting why some accents are perceived negatively and others positively. It is fascinating how there can be people who speak the same language but are dialect foreigners to each other.
Q: What piece of advice would you give to an undergraduate student?
A: College only lasts four years; take advantage of every possible thing. Four years seems like a long time but in the abstract, it is very short. The last thing you want to do is have regrets. I tell students to take advantage of all the resources they have at their disposal.
Q: Why did you choose to do your research in Latin American countries?
A: I was studying Peninsular Spanish. I started to realize that Peninsular Spanish had some interesting parallels to the Spanish in South America. After looking at the literature, I thought that this issue needed to be addressed. In Peninsular Spanish and in South American Spanish, I thought that language speakers independently had ended up coming to the same solution to a language problem. In reality, the speakers were doing something different but on the surface the solution seemed the same. We can’t really understand what happens in language unless we look across dialects.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Latin America?
A: Latin America is an extremely accommodating area. The people and the culture are accommodating to foreigners. Speakers are willing to engage you in their culture and your linguistic inquiries. People are interested in talking, which is not always the case when dealing with indigenous language. In some places, there is sometimes a stigma attached to indigenous languages and Quechua. Also, Latin America is extremely affordable.
Q: How did you become interested in Quechua?
A: I was doing comparison research. I was studying Spanish speakers in contact with Quechua speakers. It is interesting when speakers of different languages live in the same areas and have language contact because it produces a fun and interesting language. For example, Spanish spoken in the Andes or Andean Spanish is different from other dialects of Spanish because of the contact with Quechua speakers.
Q: Why is it important to learn Quechua?
A: I always like the saying, “Speaking a foreign language does not make you smarter, but learning a foreign language does”. Learning Quechua allows people access to engage in a language in a completely cultural perspective. By learning Quechua, students can engage with a Non-Western culture that lives close besides a culture that they might have had access to before, Spanish Culture. Students can better understand how two different cultures live together. Also, it allows students to get outside the western mindset. It is good to learn any indigenous language. All languages need social spaces to survive and all languages deserve a social space.
Q: Describe your favorite meal that you’ve had in Latin America
A: Taco Al Pastor in Mexico. There are spits of meat that turn all day and they cut off the meat right when you order and add some cilantro and lime. Nothing in the United States compares to it.
Q: If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?
A: “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
Q: If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play you and why?
A: Jake Gyllenhaal because he can grow a beard.
Q: What is your most embarrassing childhood moment?
A: In middle school, I was playing with this basketball thing that had suction cups to stick it on the door. I put the suction cup on my forehead and it left a bad mark. When I was a kid, I did not want to be the kid the stuck out at all. So I made up this big story up about how I was playing baseball with my brother and got hit in the head. But then my friend said he got a mark like that on his head from a suction cup.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: I play guitar and run.
Q: What is your favorite place in Athens?
A: I love the YMCA!
Q: What countries have you visited in Latin America and for how long?
A: I was in Brazil for 6 months. I lived in Peru for 5 months and visited Bolivia for a couple weeks. I was in Mexico for 7 months. I have also visited Uruguay and Costa Rica.
Q: Do you have kids/ wife?
A: I have wife named Stephanie, who is a Spanish teacher. I have two children. Patrick is eight and Claire is four almost five.
Q: What do you like best about teaching/teaching at UGA?
A: The students are fantastic and always come prepared. The students come really interested in learning. UGA students are exceptionally motivated!
Q: What is your favorite college football team?
A: Ohio State and Georgia Southern, but I also like the Dawgs!