Learning Goals for All Students

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies is committed to four primary educational goals: (1) to provide students with in-depth knowledge of the literatures, languages and cultures of Latin America, the Hispanic Caribbean and the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Latina/o and Lusophone populations in the United States; (2) to provide rigorous liberal-arts training to all of our students, by honing critical thinking and writing skills; (3) to develop our students' academic proficiency in Spanish and Portuguese, a particular need for our many students who are heritage speakers of these languages; (4) to provide students with training in preparation for careers as teachers, professors, or a myriad of other professional roles which require superior proficiency in Portuguese and Spanish.  In each of these areas, the faculty of the department is committed to providing students with a high level of mentorship and support.  In addition to these more general abilities, literature and linguistics classes introduce students to the methods and modes of inquiry of their respective disciplines.

Goals for Student Learning in Literature and Cultural Studies Classes

Literature, as well as expressive and material culture, can be enjoyed by anyone, without any special training.  Literary, cinematic and performative analysis, however, are activities for which skills, knowledge, and preparation are needed. Students of literature and culture should not only to be able to “read” texts, images and performances in Spanish or Portuguese, but to read critically: in essence, they need to become professional readers. Becoming proficient in analyzing literature and culture includes the following abilities:

  • Reading and comprehending theoretical material about literature, cultural production, identity development, politics and cultural criticism
  • Applying the theoretical material in the course to any cultural artifact about which one is reading
  • Gaining the tools for analyzing the social, cultural and political issues that shape communities
  • Grappling with historical and social dilemmas that require sensitive, careful critical commentary
  •  Learning to express one's analysis through cogent arguments and clear writing  


Goals for Student Learning in Linguistics Classes

Linguistic analysis allows us to understand how people use and acquire languages, the quintessentially human abilities that set us apart from other species. It also provides us with tools for studying language in a rigorous, precise way that uncovers its structure and hidden patterns. In linguistics classes, students will learn how to:

  • Understanding basic characteristics of human languages including linguistic universals, how languages change, the formal structure of language, and the importance of considering social factors in language use
  • Learn how to analyze language scientifically, including collecting data and testing hypotheses, theoretical approaches to language analysis, and research methods for studying languages
  • Recognize fundamental units of linguistic structure, including phonemes, morphemes, and syntactic phrases
  • Understand how language is acquired by child and adult learners, including theories regarding the role of nature versus nurture in language acquisition, the effects of age, multilingualism, and input on acquisition


Goals for Student Learning in Language Classes

The learning goals for language students take as benchmarks the 2012 Proficiency Guidelines established by ACTFL (The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) for speaking, reading, writing and listening in a language, as well as gaining knowledge of the target language culture.

Introductory or Elementary Language Instruction

  • At the end of one year of studying Portuguese or Spanish, students should demonstrate Novice-High proficiency on the ACTFL rating scale
  • Students should be able to enunciate simple opinions with clarity, begin to use informal versus formal address, be able to provide basic descriptions
  • Demonstrate beginning knowledge of the culture of the target language


Intermediate Language Instruction

  • Students at the end of the intermediate sequence (131-132) should demonstrate an Intermediate-Low to Intermediate-Mid level proficiency on the ACTFL rating scale
  • Students should be able to understand simple literary and cultural texts
  • Demonstrate more awareness of cultural conventions of address, daily routines, cultural and linguistic differences between regions where the target language is spoken


 Advanced Language Instruction (Spanish 203, 204, 307, Portuguese 204)

  • Students must demonstrate proficiency at the Intermediate-High level by the end of Spanish 204 and Portuguese 204, and Advanced-Low level proficiency according to the ACTFL scale by the end of Spanish 307
  • Students should demonstrate an understanding of the concept of linguistic register, and are expected to show evidence of a formal written and spoken register at this stage, abilities which are developed further in upper-level courses in literature, culture and linguistics