Scholar Profile - Javier Fernández-Agüera

January 21, 2021


A Spanish lecturer in the Languages and Applied Linguistics department, Javier Fernández-Agüera, brings a life-long passion for language combined with a heart for inclusion to the UC Santa Cruz campus.

Language study has been at the center of his life since he began learning English when he was three years old. That early, transformative contact with language through inspirational teachers during elementary and secondary education inspired him to study linguistics while at university. 

While working on his bachelor’s degree, he decided to explore studying in new cultures to broaden his perspective and influence international perceptions through language.

“I studied for two years in Germany, and then one year at SUNY Geneseo in New York and that was the first time I was in the States. It was very enlightening to see, first-hand, the difference between what I thought of American culture and what I actually experienced,” Fernández-Agüera said.

At the encouragement of a former professor, he then explored an opportunity at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he stayed for two years. There, he experienced yet another revelation, realizing the range of cultural difference that exists even from state to state within the U.S.

Motivated by his experiences in America’s northern and southern states, he longed to find a position on the west coast to further explore additional social and linguistic perspectives. Shortly after returning to Spain, that desire became a reality when, after interviewing with UC Santa Cruz, he was offered a lecturer position in Spanish which he has held since 2019.

“I remember the conversation focused heavily on my cultural and teaching experiences in Mississippi and New York. There was an interest in my field of research and teaching philosophy,” Fernández-Agüera said. “We talked about the importance of communicating with respect to gender identity and how masculine and feminine subjunctives do not support that idea. This was a topic that I had researched previously and I was confident the university would support further research. I didn't think twice.”

UC Santa Cruz’s acceptance of his teaching philosophy is one thing that Fernández-Agüera appreciates most about the campus community. He believes it has allowed him to focus efforts on the needs of the students. Among these needs is the ability to open their minds to new perspectives and new ways of understanding others.

“My first goal is that students find language learning fun. My second goal is that they find it useful. When speaking with native language speakers, you are not given multiple choice answers. Students must be brave. That is true success. The more you understand and care about language, the more confident you are in communicating and open you are to cultural differences,” Fernández-Agüera said.

Interactions with and proximity to a diverse collection of professors and researchers impact his work and future aspirations in positive ways.

“Within the Languages and Applied Linguistics department, there are many international professors. Not only do we have interesting perspectives but they are varied, which open up opportunities for research collaboration,” Fernández-Agüera said.

Fernández-Agüera is currently focusing research on a translation proposal for the ungendered pronoun "they" into Spanish.