Spanish Undergraduate

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Mission / Letter from the Chair

The Spanish major is flexible and designed to allow you to satisfy your intellectual curiosity. While all majors study Spanish language through the advanced levels, you will also have the opportunity to select from over 75 courses to accommodate your specific needs and interests. Students can choose from classes in literature, culture, business Spanish, translation, cross-cultural communication, and linguistics. The department also offers courses for heritage and native speakers. Spanish can also be enhanced with a second major such as international business, criminal justice, government and politics, journalism, sociology, or psychology. Professional careers in the legal, health, and science fields can also be combined with Spanish.

Our undergraduate majors graduate with the awareness of the international opportunities that await them, whether they undertake further specialized studies in literature, language, and, culture, or pursue opportunities in other fields such as education, public service, business, law, environmental policies, social services, medicine, or the arts. Through experiential learning, service learning, and internships, students can earn credit while using their Spanish skills and contributing to local communities.

Learning Outcomes

Spanish majors will be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding and knowledge of varied aspects of the cultures of the Spanish-speaking world and act in appropriate and culturally sensitive ways.
  • Show competence in speaking, reading, writing, and understanding Spanish as a way to communicate with other cultures.
  • Analyze and interpret a variety of texts and traditions from diverse Spanish-speaking cultures, including the United States.
  • Communicate effectively in Spanish both orally and in writing on a range of topics.
  • Conduct research in Spanish in the areas of language, literature, and culture.
  • Demonstrate bilingual functionality and therefore increase their marketability and performance in the work place.

These skills should prepare students for a variety of professional and intellectual opportunities in the United States and abroad. Occupations include but are not limited to the following:

  • bilingual educator
  • bilingual tax assessor
  • business management
  • customs/immigration officer
  • foreign news correspondent
  • government administrator
  • import/export specialist
  • international relations
  • law enforcement
  • librarian
  • medical interpreter
  • museum or art gallery director
  • political analyst
  • publishing specialist
  • refugee/immigrant assistance
  • research analyst
  • sales and marketing
  • speech pathologist
  • tourism and travel
  • translator 

Why Study Spanish

Learning other languages can improve analytic and interpretive skills. It expands the knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, literature, and especially culture from a unique perspective. In fact, learning languages gives an insider’s view of other cultures and new views of oneself. Professionals with bilingual and bicultural competence are often called on to travel and exchange information with people from and in other countries throughout their careers.

Spanish is an essential language for the United States, with a variety of day-to-day applications. Take a look at the following information:

  • Learning Spanish gives you opportunities to learn about the languages, literatures, and cultures of Spain and Latin America. Many students also achieve a more comprehensive knowledge by majoring or minoring in Spanish, or by combining Spanish with a second major, such as Latin American Studies, art, business, economics, education, international studies, journalism, linguistics, political science, etc.
  • According to the US Census, more than 50 million people living in the U.S. are Hispanic/Latino, and most of them speak Spanish. The Hispanic/Latino community is expected to show continued growth and geographic expansion. 
  • Over 500 million people speak Spanish worldwide, making it one of the largest markets for businesses and one of the most useful languages for travel. Spanish is the world's third most spoken language, after Mandarin Chinese and English. Spanish is the mother tongue of approximately 400 million people, and it is also widely spoken in many more where it is not an official language.
  • Spanish is the official language in 21 countries, the second most used language in international communication, and an official language in the European Union, UNESCO, GATT and many other international organizations. 
  • Employers are seeking applicants who can speak Spanish in nearly every profession (finance, government, communications, education, sales, journalism, legal, lwa enforcement, etc.). Hispanic/Latino consumers are the fastest-growing market segment in North America.
  • Knowing Spanish can make your travel experiences more enjoyable. It is estimated that U.S. citizens spend more travel time in Spanish-speaking countries than in any other foreign countries (excluding English-speaking countries).
  • Learning Spanish can help you learn the other Latin-based languages such as French and Italian. These languages all have Indo-European roots and share some characteristics (such as gender and extensive conjugation) that are present in Spanish but not English.

Other quick resources of interest:

http://www.cal.org/resources/pubs/sns_brochure.pdf (Why Start and Maintain a Spanish for Native Speakers program?)
http://www.cal.org/resources/pubs/multilingual_brochure.pdf (Working Together to Build a Multilingual Society)
http://www.cal.org/resources/pubs/whyhowwhen_brochure.pdf (Why, How, and When Should My Child Learn a Second Language?
http://www.adfl.org/resources/lang_brochure.pdf (Why Learn Another Language)

Why Study Spanish at UMD

At the University of Maryland we are educating future leaders and international citizens.  Studying Spanish at UMD gives you an opportunity to learn the language both inside and outside of the classroom. The Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area (Washington, D.C., Maryland, and northern Virginia) is an exciting place to be, and UMD is only a short metro ride away. The Metro area is home to one of the fastest growing and most diverse Latino populations in the United States. In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that over 54,749 Latinos lived in the District of Columbia, comprising 9% of D.C.’s total population. Latinos in both Maryland and Virginia stood at 8% of each state’s population (see the U.S. Census Bureau website).

In addition, UMD is close to embassies, international institutions such as the World Bank or the Organization of American States, many NGOs, and businesses that are involved in activities that require a knowledge of Spanish.  Many students choose to do internships at these or other places, such as National Geographic or local Latino governmental organizations.

UMD is very diverse and the availability of employment has drawn a large number of immigrants from all over Latin America and elsewhere, but particularly from Central America. The Department of Spanish and Portuguese has worked closely with the nearby communities on numerous projects which have involved students at all levels.