Spanish at Barnard
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.
Learning Spanish at Barnard
Language instruction in Spanish and Latin American Cultures is geared to providing students the skills they need to use Spanish competently in all environments: personal, public, occupational, and educational. Each curricular level in the department (Language, Bridge, and Upper) advances your acquisition of Spanish as a second or foreign language, or in some cases, helps sharpen the skills of students who are already highly proficient.
Spanish and Latin American Cultures language faculty are all linguists with various scholarly subspecialties and vast experience specifically in the field of Teaching Spanish as a Second/Foreign Language (TSSFL). They work in close collaboration with upper-level faculty specializing in diverse areas of literary and cultural studies to ensure continuity in both content and language instruction throughout students’ undergraduate careers.
Our chosen teaching methodologies, adaptable to individual learning styles, aim to fulfill students’ needs. We bring together a number of state-of-the-art practices in language pedagogy:
- Task-Based Approach. In our lives, we use our first language every day to accomplish things by interacting, negotiating, persuading, etc. This shouldn’t be different to what we do with Spanish. Instead of learning about the language; we learn how to use the language by using it. The Task-Based approach arranges syllabi around increasingly complex real tasks that enable students to use Spanish effectively to fulfill certain needs. Communication is the core of every lesson, and formal instruction (grammatical, lexical, phonetic, and pragmatic) is not a goal in itself but a tool to accomplish such tasks. Language structures are accessed as needed by tasks, rather than in a fixed order.
- Cognitive grammar. Unlike traditionally-taught structural grammar, which focuses on memorization and replication of a series of linguistic forms understood as inherent to the language system, this approach helps students understand grammatical rules by focusing logically on the meaning cognitively conceptualized by language constructions. Students achieve a full grasp of formal nuances that enables them to apply rules to use language autonomously.
- Project Approach. In New York City, Spanish cannot be considered a foreign language, and our campus is part of this linguistic and cultural scenario. Every semester, students in the introductory course sequence complete one major project by using Spanish resources locally available. Whether researching the linguistic landscape in different neighborhoods through texts available in public spaces, appreciating Spanish, Spanish-American, and Latina/o art and architecture, attending cultural events, or interacting with Spanish-speaking residents by interviewing them or participating in community activities—our students have access to multiple real immersion opportunities that put them in contact with the city’s diversity.
- Content-Based Instruction (CBI) / Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). From the earliest levels we work with real-life documents in Spanish as well as materials developed by our own faculty to simultaneously learn a new language and explore new academic content. These methodologies seek synergy between the cognitive processes needed for language acquisition and the higher-order reasoning involved in understanding any complex subject, so that content processing aids in language acquisition. In courses integrating language and content, the subject matter is learned through the study of language, and vice versa.
- Language for Academic Purposes. Language for Specific Purposes approaches target language acquisition to tasks and skills appropriate to learners in specialized settings, like business or medicine. Our department borrows pedagogical techniques from this methodology, applying them to a particular specialized setting: the academic and pre-professional study of literary and cultural issues pertinent to the Spanish-speaking world and US Latino/a environments. As students progress through the Language, Bridge, and Upper levels, instruction is increasingly tailored to elicit high-level performance in setting-related activities, in comparison to the general-purpose needs of learners outside higher education.
Following Anderson, Krathwohl, and Bloom’s (2001) taxonomy of cognitive domain [Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., and Bloom, B. S. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. Longman, New York.], our language program’s learning goals can be summarized in reference to these six levels:
- Remembering: The student recalls or remembers the information.
- Understanding: The student explains and interprets ideas and concepts.
- Applying: The student uses the information in a new way.
- Analyzing: The student distinguishes and organizes concepts.
- Evaluating: The student develops critical thinking.
- Creating: The student creates a new product and expands knowledge.
The Spanish and Latin American Cultures integrated curriculum consists of three interlocking levels. Although each has a different emphasis, they are conceived as connecting pieces of a single project that guides students in the uninterrupted development of translingual and transcultural competence throughout the four years of study. From the very beginning, language acquisition is directed toward skills useful for a college/pre-professional audience.
I. The Language Program consists of the four-semester introductory course sequence: SPANUG1101, 1102, 2101, and 2102, and emphasizes the initial stages of language acquisition—by the end of the four semesters, students should reach Threshold/Intermediate (CEFR B1) or ACTFL Intermediate-range proficiency level. Each semester’s syllabus contains detailed learning objective information. Unlike at many other college language programs, our elementary-intermediate sequence is tailored to learners with a high educational level, stressing language use beyond general purposes suited to travel or everyday situations and cultivating competencies geared to academic and professional settings. From the first semester, attention is also paid to the critical understanding of cultural products including, but not limited to, literature. Although the sequence is conceived as a single four-semester course (and requires purchase of only one set of textbook materials), students may begin at the first, second, third, or fourth semester depending on placement. See Language Requirement. Please see the Language Program Director if you have any placement questions.
II. The Bridge Level is considered the threshold to and counts towards, the major and minor. It includes SPANUG3300, 3349, and 3350, which are prerequisites for all advanced courses unless specially noted in an upper-level course description. The bridge sequence emphasizes basic topics, issues, and methods in literary and cultural studies, as well as the fundamentals of academic exposition (written or oral). Completion of SPAN1202 or an appropriate score in the placement exam is mandatory to enroll in the bridge sequence, and native/near-native speakers who wish to enroll in upper-level courses are not exempt from SPAN UN3300, 3349, and 3350. SPAN UN3300 is designed to precede 3349/3350, or at the very least to coincide with the first of these two courses to be taken. If you have problems with in-sequence registration, please consult the Language Program Director.
III. The Upper Level includes all 3000/4000-numbered courses except those in the bridge level, and concentrates on advanced topics, issues, and methods in literary and cultural studies, in addition to research and academic expository writing. Continued work on language acquisition and development should take students to CEFR B2-C2 levels (Independent/Proficient User) and the ACTFL Intermediate High through Superior range. Completion of at least two bridge courses is required for registration in the upper level, both for departmental majors/minors and students from other programs. Please note that, although any course in a language other than English satisfies the Barnard language requirement, in Spanish and Latin American Cultures you cannot place directly into an upper-level course. Exceptions are uncommon, and must be cleared by the Language Program Director, a departmental Major, or Minor Advisor, and/or the course instructor in consultation with advisors.
Unless specified in a course description, all courses in the department are conducted in Spanish. As recommended by the American Association of Departments of Foreign Language, enrollment is limited to fifteen students to allow for maximum class participation and substantial writing feedback, which are essential for maximizing language learning efficiency.
For information on satisfying the Barnard Language Requirement in Spanish and Latin American Cultures, click here.
For information on language teaching methodologies in Spanish and Latin American Cultures, click here.
For information on the Major in Spanish and Latin American Cultures, click here.
For information on the Minor in Spanish and Latin American Cultures, click here.
Student Learning Outcomes
Through the Major in Spanish and Latin American Cultures, students who rigorously apply themselves to their studies will be able to:
1) Use the Spanish language at the B2-C2 proficiency levels (Independent User/Proficient User), as defined by The Common European Framework of Reference (depending on initial background and ability). Defines these levels as follows:
C2 Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.
C1 Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
B2 Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
2) Identify and describe the cultures of Spain and Spanish America throughout their history, from Islamic Spain and the colonial period through the present.
3) Demonstrate specialized knowledge of selected literary and cultural works, authors and cultural producers of the Hispanic world, understood in their aesthetic, historical, and social contexts.
4) Use basic principles of literary and cultural theory to analyze and interpret a variety of texts and other cultural products.
5) Express their ideas, analyses, and interpretation through clear oral exposition and effective critical writing.
6) Conduct research in the fields of Spanish and Spanish American literature and culture, and demonstrate the results of their research and thinking in original academic essays.
Why study a foreign language?
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