Undergraduate Program

Background image: students lined up for graduation

Undergraduate Study

The sequence of undergraduate programs of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese is designed to gain competence in written and spoken Spanish and/or Portuguese. This is accomplished through both the formal study of the linguistic structure and social history of one or both of these languages and a critical understanding of the development and achievements of their literatures in the Old World and in the New. The department’s policy is to maintain a balanced strength between language, literature, and linguistics, as well as between Peninsular and Latin American facets of a unified field. The final outcome is in the students’ capacity for advanced study and independent research, as well as practical knowledge leading to a diverse set of employment opportunities and activities with real-world impact.

The major in Spanish and Portuguese is ideal for students seeking preparation for:

  • Careers in international relations, law, journalism, business, social work, K-12 teaching, medicine, public service, and the arts and humanities
  • Graduate study in Spanish and Portuguese Literatures and Culture
  • Graduate study in Hispanic Linguistics or Linguistics

Learning Goals for the Spanish and Portuguese Program:

Common to all four options is the goal of providing our undergraduate majors with a high level of proficiency in understanding, speaking, reading, and writing Spanish and/or Portuguese, in varying cultural contexts, with increasing emphasis on the latter two skills as students progress through the major. While lower division prerequisites emphasize the acquisition of all four skills, upper-division coursework approaches these aims through the process of addressing questions of linguistics and literary analysis in the full chronological and geographic range of Hispanic cultures. Each of the five options has a core writing component, and each includes courses designated as writing-intensive. The upper-division writing courses emphasize skill development in a subject-matter context. We see the research, organizational, and argumentative aspects of writing as skills that transfer across languages (thus Spanish and Portuguese as liberal arts majors), and also as markers of high proficiency in the target language.

It is important for students to have access to information regarding the areas of expertise, in not only geographic regions but also in the fields of literature and linguistics that enable them to become critical readers and thinkers. Students will learn to organize research projects using the full range of available sources, construct arguments, summarize positions, and present them in coherent, convincing written and oral form. The goals of our program distinguish between knowledge and skills:


  • Attain solid (though not necessarily flawless) proficiency in reading, writing, understanding, and speaking Spanish and/or Portuguese.
  • Recognize a variety of genres and modes of writing (fiction, poetry, theater, and essay).
  • Become conversant in the vocabulary associated with literary analysis in Spanish and/or Portuguese.
  • Be able to articulate specific connections between literary texts and the historical and cultural contexts in which they were produced.
  • Gain a critical awareness of distinctions and continuities among the literatures of the Iberian peninsula and Latin America across national and regional boundaries and historical periods.
  • Acquire the analytical resources of diverse literary approaches and theories.


  • Demonstrate the ability to interpret and analyze texts written in Spanish and/or Portuguese, depending upon the major option.
  • Develop critical approaches for the analysis of texts from a range of historical periods and regions of Latin America and the Iberian peninsula.
  • Distinguish among dialects and usages typical of diverse regions, social contexts, and historical periods in Spain and/or Portugal, and the Americas, including usages of heritage speakers (Concentration D).
  • Formulate well-organized, well-supported arguments both orally and in written stylistically effective Spanish and/or Portuguese.
  • Write essays in standard academic Spanish and/or Portuguese, using appropriate vocabulary to discuss examples from specific texts.
  • Be able to distinguish among the available print and online sources and choose those that are most reliable as support for arguments in class discussion and essays.
  • Practice responsible citation of sources in essays.