Gatepost Interview: Everton Vargas daCosta, Assistant Professor of World Languages
By Jordan Bacci
What is your educational and professional background?
I have a Ph.D. from a public university in Brazil from a city called Porto Alegre. It is different in Brazil. The public universities are the best ones, making me very proud I got in. I got my degree from the Universidade Federal. I studied Portuguese – specifically how educators teach Portuguese as a second language – Portuguese literature, and some English literature, too.
What made you interested in teaching a language?
Well, that was from an experience I’ve had. I was interested in teaching, and I went to a university to teach Portuguese. And I saw how they taught it there. And the help sessions – there were very informal mentoring sessions – not like here, where the professors would help over a cup of coffee. And these professors – they didn’t have any experience in teaching languages. They were teaching it because they spoke it, being from Brazil. And I wanted to see how it was taught, how to teach it, and different methods.
Did these meetings influence the Spanish language tables you host?
You know, they did a bit. My goals [with these tables] is to integrate – to give the students a safe place, where they can firstly speak the language, and also where they can ask questions from their peers and from the faculty there. They can find mentors, so to speak. And you know, professors have said it’s very helpful to go to these tables and speak, to connect with their students, to speak with them – well, to speak Spanish with them, being able to keep practicing the language. I used to know a bit of Italian, but I’ve forgotten a lot of it because I couldn’t keep in practice. And new languages are so important because you get the chance to reinvent your persona. English Everton, well, English-speaking Everton is a lot like Portuguese-speaking Everton. But Italian-speaking Everton – well, he’s a bit Sicilian, because
that’s where I learned, and I learned with my Sicilian friend. So, when I speak Italian, I use a lot of hand gestures.
Are there any differences you’ve noticed between teaching in the U.S. and other places?
Oh, definitely. From a student’s perspective ... in Brazil, you go to a university, and everyone – all the people studying languages, pedagogy, and literature – they might be in one place, one college. But then people in journalism, mathematics, or whatever would be in another. So, you wouldn’t see them – you wouldn’t mix. And that’s what’s so great about things here, how multidisciplinary it is. It’s why I’m glad I teach a beginner’s Portuguese course. I have students from every major, and they get to mix in ... a very multidisciplinary way. You have students from every college, every major, and you get to meet and mingle.
Do you have any other languages you’d like to learn?
Well, right now, I’m teaching a course that’s the most interesting course I’ve taught. I’m so lucky to be teaching it with only twelve students – with brilliant, patient, motivated, exemplary students – who are really interested in the subject. It’s on Romance languages and on how they all evolved from Latin. Right now, for example, we’re reading this book, “The Little Prince,” in these languages to get a grasp of nouns, verbs, and so on. It’s called, in Latin, “Regulus.” So, I’d say Latin’s the most interesting language to me right now, since I’m doing a lot of reading in and on it, and I’m teaching a course on it.
You seem to be very fond of Framingham. How did you end up here?
Well, I didn’t know much about the area until I was here. I knew volleyball was invented somewhere around here, because I’m a big fan of volleyball. But that’s about it. But then I was hired to teach a lecture in Portuguese at Harvard. And Brazil paid for me to come here to sort of represent them. And Harvard paid on the other end. So, I taught that, and then ... well, last semester, I taught a course or two here – some Portuguese and elementary Spanish as a visiting professor. So, every day, I commuted here. Then, for this semester, I got hired on. I packed up, and now I live here and teach here, and I’m really glad for the opportunity. It’s really great being here. I really enjoy it.
Do you have any advice for FSU students?
I think it’s very important to get out and explore. So, I went out with a group of students once, and a lot of you haven’t even been around Framingham, even though you live in this town, and it’s right here for you to go to. And that’s a shame, because it’s such a beautiful, diverse [place]. ... If you had to see the cosmos, the scope of humanity and diversity in one place, Framingham would be it. And there’s so many opportunities! For business, and advertising, and, you know, if you’re learning a second language, there’s so much you can do with that, so much use for it. So, there’s a lot of job opportunities in Framingham, and a lot to look at and see. It’s a very beautiful city, and I’d really advise all students to explore it.