Dr. Benjamin Souza teaches all levels of Spanish classes and specializes in Spanish linguistics. He researches second languages, Spanish phonetics and Spanish dialectology.
Q. When did you realize you wanted to learn more about the Spanish language?
A. I first took Spanish in high school. Ever since that first class, I would find myself thinking about how to say things in Spanish, mostly because I just really wanted to know how to say them!
I decided to pursue Spanish at the university level due to experiences I had while volunteering for two years among the Spanish-speaking population in southern California for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shortly after I graduated high school. I learned a lot about the language and its Latin-American speakers during that time, and I wanted to continue to learn more about those things.
Q. What made you want to pursue a career teaching Spanish?
A. In my undergraduate studies I took a class that required us to teach a Spanish lesson to a class one hour per week. I was lucky enough to know a woman (my good friend’s mother) who taught third grade in a local elementary school. She agreed to let me come to her class for an hour each week and do little Spanish lessons with her class.
It was largely because of that class I was taking as an undergraduate that I first thought seriously about someday teaching Spanish. While I knew that I wanted to teach Spanish, I also knew that I most likely would want to teach it at the university level. That led me to pursue a master’s degree and then a PhD in Spanish linguistics.
Q. Why did you choose to come to Appalachian to teach?
A. I was lucky enough to be hired to work here at Appalachian directly after completing my PhD work at Penn State in the fall of 2008. I had an offer from another university, but honestly, not only are this university and my home department a good fit for me academically and personally, this beautiful area of North Carolina is hard to pass up.
Q. You have been a part of multiple Alternative Service Experiences. Why are these trips important to you?
A. I am very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to work with the ACT office and their Alternative Service Experience programs. These programs have been invaluable...and lots of fun, too!
My favorite part of those programs is seeing students grow. The students often sign up for a program not knowing much about it, not knowing any of the other participants, and sometimes not knowing much about themselves and what they’re able to accomplish. It’s great to see them move outside their comfort zones and engage with people in a different language and from a different culture, all while doing some sort of physical work or other task as part of the volunteering experience.
Q. What do you hope students take away from the classes you teach?
A. The primary aim of my classes is to help spark an interest in students in topics related to Spanish and its diverse speakers all over the world, and in topics related to second language acquisition or in other fields of linguistics. And then, to watch as that spark grows into a fire that propels them to become lifelong learners of other languages and cultures.