The Department of Spanish and Latin American Cultures at Barnard College boasts a long tradition of excellence in undergraduate education for women. Throughout its history, it has afforded students a solid preparation in both Spanish language and the literatures and cultures of Spain, Spanish America, and the Spanish-speaking United States.
As recommended by the Modern Language Association, our department aims to provide students with both translingual and transcultural competence. Its keystone is an integrated curriculum that seeks linguistic and intellectual continuity from the initial levels through the most advanced courses. Although there is a gradual shift in weight given to language and cultural content as students advance in the program, throughout the three stages of our course curriculum—the Language, Bridge, and Upper levels—emphasis is placed as much on early development of analytical skills in cultural and literary studies as on continued language acquisition through the time of graduation.
Our linguistic objectives are proficiency-oriented. By the end of the four-semester introductory course sequence, the vast majority of students can expect to reach at least the B1/Threshold level in relation to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and the Intermediate range as described by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. This is the earliest level at which learners are able to use Spanish for tasks associated with work and study outside the language classroom itself, beyond familiar everyday communication or travel interaction. By the end of the major, students should be able to use the language at the CEFR B2-C2 levels (Independent/Proficient User) and the ACTFL Intermediate High through Superior range.
Department students are also rigorously prepared in the literatures and cultures of the Spanish-speaking world, as well as a diversity-oriented study of US Latina/o production. Substantial consideration is given to the historical and theoretical tools necessary for analyzing this corpus of works. From the earliest levels, learners devote significant critical attention to literary texts and other cultural artifacts, sociocultural understanding, and ethnographic projects. As they make progress, substantial emphasis is also placed on strengthening research skills and academic writing.
Our undergraduate curriculum was developed in close association with Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia, and students can elect to take courses in either department. Our strong collaboration with interdisciplinary programs at Barnard, including Comparative Literature, Africana Studies, Women’s Studies, and the Forum on Migration, also gives our curriculum multifaceted focus. Study abroad in Spain or Spanish America is an essential component of our scholarly project.
Translingual and transcultural competence involve very marketable skills, and Spanish and Latin American Cultures alumnae have moved on to a wide range of post-college experiences in the professional sphere. Many have also been admitted to top graduate programs in our field as well as other disciplines.