By: Maggie Cavalenes
The problem with Eva Morón Fernández is that she’s “good at everything.” In school, she enjoyed history, chemistry, geography and would do math problems for fun when she was stressed. Of course, there’s also the fact that she speaks six languages.
“I don’t know how I got here,” Fernández said with a laugh when asked why she learned so many languages. “I kept adding languages without realizing.”
Fernández learned Spanish and English as a child in Calahorra, Spain, and picked up French from her father. She took German during her time at the University of Valladolid, using it when she went to Munich as an exchange student at the Fremdspracheninstitut der Landeshauptstadt München (Foreign Language Institute of the City of Munich). She began learning Italian in college as well, and added Polish along the way. The hardest of these was the latter, due to the fact it was the first Slavic language Fernández learned, making its grammar rules much different than that of a Romance or Germanic language.
She’s currently teaching herself Swedish when she “has time.” She can already speak it from living with Swedish roommates when she worked at Disneyland Paris, but she wants to learn how to write it.
Out of all the words she knows, her favorite word since she was little is “pistacho,” the Spanish word for “pistachio.”
“Pistach-I-o,” Fernández said, emphasizing the “i” that the English version includes, wrinkling her nose. “No, I don’t like that.”
Knowing all these languages can cause confusion, like forgetting the Spanish word for “settings” during a recent phone conversation with her brother as she tried to explain how to fix a problem on his phone.
She started dreaming in English two months into her time at the University of Kentucky, where she got her master’s in Hispanic studies before moving to the University of Georgia to start working on her PhD in linguistics.
“I was like, ‘woah, that’s new’,” she said, reflecting on the first time she woke up and realized she had been dreaming in English. Fernández sometimes dreams in French, as well.
“If I dream in French, and I wake up and have to talk in English to my classes, it takes me a while to process the language,” she explained.
On a Wednesday in March, Fernández walks in-between desks as the Elementary Spanish class works on their assignments, hands in the pockets of her dress as she answers students’ questions.
Fernández tells a student that Paco is short for Francisco, to which the student replies, “like Bill is short for William?”
Despite being in the U.S. since 2014, this is clearly a new fact to Fernández. “Bill Clinton’s real name is William?” she asks, eyes wide.
The students laugh and confirm that it’s true. “It’s a whole new world,” one student comments, and Fernández laughs along with them.
She explains the game of “yo nunca,” the Spanish version of “never have I ever,” and gives the example that she’s never been to Chick-fil-A (though she recently tried her first Pumpkin Spice Latte). This reveal sparks a lot of debate amongst her students, but she redirects them to the task at hand.
Fernández said the best part of teaching, when she thinks about it, is her students and the feeling of being useful. Between teaching her classes, going to her classes for her Ph.D. and studying, “teaching is the best part of my day,” said Fernández.
The first culture shock Fernández experienced was on her first day in the United States, when her roommates from the U.K. took her to Walmart. “That was the closest place I’ve ever been to Disneyland, I think,” she said with a laugh. “Everything is huge, everything is big. Food is also different, you have a lot of things of everything. If you want cereal, you have like 50 kinds of cereal, maybe more.”
Southern hospitality is another cultural difference Fernández has noticed since her move to the U.S. “I think people are nicer here, in the sense that if you walk through the street here and you see someone, they smile to you and you smile back,” she said, a smile on her own face. “In Spain that doesn’t happen, if that happened – run.”
“I remember the first time I was at the supermarket, and they asked me like, ‘how was your day today’, ‘how are you doing’, I was like ‘no, you don’t know me, I’m new,’” she said, reflecting on her first days in the U.S.
“It is very hard to be funny in your second language, and she is super funny,” said Alexandra Lauchnor, another Spanish instructor at UGA getting her PhD in Hispanic linguistics who has been friends with Fernández for three years.
Fernández can’t drive, as the process to get a license is a lot more complicated in Spain than it is in the United States, and she spent the summers she could have spent taking classes working at Disneyland Paris. However, this hasn’t stopped her from getting to cities all over the United States, and around Athens in general. “I run pretty fast,” she replied to one student who asked how she gets around UGA without a car.
The cities in the United States that she’s visited and enjoyed include New Orleans, Memphis and New York City. Before (and if) she goes back to Europe, Fernández hopes to visit Washington, Philadelphia and Chicago. “I’ve never been to Chicago, I want to go so badly. I’ve been in the airport so many times. It seems so pretty, for some reason Chicago seems different [than other cities], and I heard pizza is good,” she said.
Fernández describes her choice to go to the U.K. for her master’s as the influence of an “inner Jiminy Cricket.” While most students spend a lot of time weighing options when it comes to their choice of college, when faced with three American universities to choose from, Fernández said she simply woke up with a feeling that she needed to go to Kentucky, and so she went. It was similar when she had the choice to go anywhere in Europe as an exchange student, deciding to go to Munich and calling that “the best year of [her] life.”
“I used to get nervous. I used to think ‘what will happen if I miss this train’ or ‘what if my flight got canceled’,” she said, when asked if all her traveling made her nervous. “Now, I’m used to flights being canceled and missed trains. So, yeah, I’m not nervous anymore. I’m curious. I’m really curious about meeting new places and new people.”
Despite now being in her second year at UGA, that curiosity hasn’t gotten her to eat at Chick-fil-A just yet.