Jul 13, 2024  
College Catalog 2024-2025 
College Catalog 2024-2025

Spanish and Portuguese

Full Time Faculty: Fernanda Bartolomei Merlin, Susana Blanco-Iglesias, Antonio Dorca, Claudia Giannini, Blanca Gimeno Escudero, Cynthia Kauffeld (Chair), Teresa Mesa Adamuz, Alicia Muñoz, Margaret Olsen, Ernesto Ortiz-Díaz, Rosa Rull Montoya, Daniel Coral Reyes

Spanish and Portuguese are two of the most widely spoken languages in the world. There are 495 million native speakers of Spanish in the world and 210 million native speakers of Portuguese residing on five continents and in over 30 nations, including 52 million Latinos who reside in the US. Both languages have a growing presence in social media. Spanish is the second most-used language on Twitter, followed by Japanese and Portuguese, and the third most commonly used language on the Internet with a growth of 800% in the last 10 years. With 18 million students of Spanish worldwide (and increasing demand for Spanish in Brazil and China), it is estimated that by the year 2030 that 7.5% of the planet will speak Spanish. Both Spanish and Portuguese are essential languages of commerce and trade, history, science, art, and diplomacy.

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese actively responds to the intellectual motivations of contemporary students in its language pedagogy and curricular offerings. First, we enable our students to develop a confident proficiency in Spanish and/or Portuguese that allows them to interact effectively with native speakers in the modes of speaking, listening, reading and writing. We compel them to examine a broad range of cultural expressions, historical patterns, and social issues to ensure that they will be conversant with matters pertinent to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking persons both in the US and abroad. Second, we strive to refine critical thinking. Our courses encourage students to confront a variety of literary, visual and cultural texts, and generate bold questions and interpretations informed by multidisciplinary critical perspectives. We believe that strong oratory skills and the development of argumentative writing ability in Spanish or Portuguese are fundamental to building the critical capacity valued by a liberal arts education. Third, we create a collaborative learning environment in which students work together, exchange ideas and benefit from their shared experience. Fourth, we encourage our students to be responsible, participatory members of a global society. With this objective in mind, we generate civic learning opportunities and sponsor internships for students who want to work with Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking communities in the US and abroad. Study away, the Casa Hispana, and the Casa de Português student residence are integral components of our program. Study away in a Spanish- or Portuguese-speaking country is required for our majors and strongly recommended for our minors. The Casa Hispana and the Casa de Português supports our curriculum by creating a community living experience in Spanish or Portuguese and by providing a space for class meetings and cultural events throughout the academic year.


Students may also take Portuguese within our department. Portuguese is the language of Brazil, the largest and most economically powerful nation in South America. In fact, there are more Portuguese speakers in South America than Spanish speakers. It is also the language of Portugal, five African nations, and numerous other enclaves in Asia and North America. Portuguese is spoken by more people around the world than German, Russian, French, Italian, or Japanese. Students of Spanish and Latin American Studies are encouraged to study Portuguese in order to acquire valuable, complementary skills and to develop a more complete view of both Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula.

Career Orientation for Spanish Majors

A number of our recent majors have pursued graduate work in Spanish language and literature, comparative literature, linguistics, Latin American area studies, international studies, international business, education, law, economics, and medicine. Some have entered careers in Spanish immersion elementary and secondary education, bilingual or special education, the U.S. Foreign Service, human rights organizations, and commerce. Others have begun their careers in the Peace Corps or VISTA. To enhance their career opportunities, many have combined their Spanish major with complementary majors such as biology, economics, linguistics, political science, anthropology, or history.

Casa Hispana (Spanish House)

The department sponsors a residence next to the campus for students who are interested in living in a Spanish-speaking environment. Residents commit to speaking only Spanish while in the house. Two Program Assistants supervise the house and organize various activities such as community meals, cultural events, movie nights, and celebrations of Spanish-speaking cultures. Residence is intended for students who have achieved at least an intermediate level of proficiency and want to improve it. Applications are accepted February through March each year.

Casa de Português (Portuguese Language House)

Macalester is one of the very few higher-educational institutions in the nation that is home to a Portuguese-language immersion community. Walking distance from campus, the Portuguese Language House offers students interested in Portuguese the opportunity to improve their skills in the language. Living in the Casa de Português provides students with unique chances to enrich their cultural competence and knowledge of the Lusophone world. One Program Assistant supervises the house a d organizes various activities such as community meals, movie nights, and celebrations of the Lusophone world cultures. Residence is intended for students who have achieved an intermediate level of proficiency and want to improve it. Applications are accepted in March and November each year for fall residence and to fill any openings in the spring, respectively.

Study Abroad

Formal academic study in a Spanish- or Portuguese- speaking country is a key element of the Spanish and Portuguese programs and useful to foreign language students in many ways. This is an opportunity that we recommend to all of our students, and it is a requirement for our majors. With prior approval of the department chair, up to two courses from study away programs may be counted toward the Spanish major or the Spanish or Portuguese minor. All additional courses necessary to meet departmental graduation requirements must be taken on campus. A key element to proper preparation for the study abroad experience is choosing the right program for a student’s proficiency level and one that focuses on their area of interest. Macalester and the Department recommend programs in numerous countries.

The Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA), Butler University provides programs in Santiago (Chile), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Havana (Cuba), Mérida (México), Lima (Perú), and Lisbon (Portugual) that allow direct enrollment opportunities at several partner universities.

Students interested in pursuing more general liberal arts studies in identity, language and culture may choose from programs such as CET in Sao Paulo and Middlebury College’s programs in Belo Horizonte, Florianopolis and Niteroi in Brazil. The International Institute for the Education of Students Abroad (IES) has Spanish-immersion programs in Madrid and Granada (Spain) that allow students to choose from a wide range of courses at their center and take direct enrollment courses at the area university. The Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE) offers liberal aArts programs with direct enrollment in Sevillae, Spain and Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. For more information on IFSA, CIEE, IES, CET, or any of the many other programs available to students, please see the department’s website and consult with the Center for Study Away.

General Distribution Requirement

Except for elementary and intermediate language courses, all courses in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese count toward the general distribution requirement in humanities.

General Education Requirements

Courses that meet the general education requirements in writing, quantitative thinking, internationalism and US identities and differences are posted on the Registrar’s web page in advance of registration for each semester.

Additional information regarding the general distribution requirement and the general education requirements can be found in the graduation requirements  section of this catalog.

Language Requirement

Students can fulfill the Macalester College foreign language requirement in Spanish or Portuguese in this department by completing one of the following: 1) A score of 4-5 on the Advanced Placement Test offered through high schools; 2) Successful completion of Macalester’s SPAN 204 - Intermediate Spanish II  or SPAN 220 - Accelerated Intermediate Spanish ; 3) Successful completion of Macalester’s two-course Portuguese language sequence PORT 111 - Accelerated Beginning Portuguese  through PORT 221 - Accelerated Intermediate Portuguese .

Students earn credit for SPAN 101  and SPAN 102  by scoring 5, 6, or 7 on the International Baccalaureate Exam. These students will still need to fulfill the above guidelines for the two-year language requirement.

Students will not receive credit for SPAN 110  if they have previously taken or been awarded credit for SPAN 101  and/or SPAN 102  .

Students will not receive credit for SPAN 220  if they have previously taken or been awarded credit for SPAN 203  and/or SPAN 204  .

Students are expected to satisfy the foreign language requirement through courses at Macalester, unless exceptional circumstances arise.

Students who fulfilled the language requirement by meeting the guidelines above must take SPAN 305  or SPAN 306 before entering the sequence of courses further required for a major or minor in Spanish.

Honors Program

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese participates in the honors program. Eligibility requirements, application procedures and specific project expectations for the department are available from either the department office or the Academic Programs and Advising Office.

Topics Courses

SPAN 194 , SPAN 294 , SPAN 394 , SPAN 494  

Topics courses offer a variety of themes and approaches not found in our regular course offerings. Recent topics courses have included: Marginalized and Subaltern Figures; From Cervantes to García Márquez; Caribbean Oral Traditions; Latinx in the Midwest; Hyphenating Identities; Disparate Journeys: Brazil and the US since the Abolition of Slavery. Prerequisite: varies. Offered fall and/or spring, depending on instructor availability, and announced at the time of registration. (4 credits)

Independent Study

The department offers independent study options in the form of tutorials, independent projects, internships, and preceptorships. For more information contact the department and review the Curriculum  section of the catalog.