Name: Frances Brandt
Year: Class of 2009
Hometown: Boston, MA
Major: Psychology and Spanish
I have always considered the process of learning a new language to be comprised of two parts. It is at once rigidly formulaic and intensely creative, as it requires both a thorough understanding of the grammar and sentence structure and a desire to explore a new people, culture, and history. A lot of students dislike learning new languages because they find the formulaic part boring or tedious. When approached from a different perspective, however, one comes to realize how fascinating it is to begin to understand the structural differences and similarities between English and any of the romance languages. Furthermore, it is only with a basic knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary that one is able to enjoy the more creative part of the language, like traveling!! (The picture is of a typical Spanish tapas meal.)
I absolutely LOVE learning new languages. I went to a bilingual (Spanish and English) preschool for 3 years of my childhood, and I am convinced that the early exposure is the reason for my current interest. I started taking formal Spanish classes in 7th grade, and when I got to high school decided to pick up French, too. My love for learning new languages has driven me to pursue both Spanish and French here at Hopkins, where I am a Psychology and Spanish double-major and have taken numerous French classes. I would like to use the rest of this blog to detail my three favorite features of the Spanish major.
1.) The classes
One thing I particularly like about the Spanish courses is that many of them are cross-listed with other majors. This means that a Spanish class might also fall under the course listings for ahistory class, for example. Studying Spanish in the context of another discipline makes the subject even more interesting, as it gives you the chance to discuss some of the relevant historical, political, or social topics you may discuss in your other classes….but in Spanish! My two favorite Spanish classes here at Hopkins were both cross-listed with other departments. Borges & Philosophy was cross-listed with the Philosophy department. The primary text we read was by the great Spanish writer Jorge Luis Borges and included some of his most famous and most entertaining, provocative stories. Additionally, we read some other texts in English by philosophers like Kant, Hobbes, and Descartes, and discussed their works in both English and Spanish. I took a high school class in high school and found Borges & Philosophy profoundly more interesting, largely because of the challenge that was posed of having to discuss such difficult topics in Spanish. (The photo is of La Alhambra in Granada, Spain.)
My Spanish class this past fall, El Cine de Pedro Almodóvar, was cross-listed with the Film & Media Studies department. In this class we were responsible for watching 1-2 movies a week, reading some critiques of each of them, and writing our own response. I had never taken a film class before and was thrilled to have the opportunity to be able to learn about the iconic filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar through such an interesting medium.
As a side note, neither of these two classes had more than 20 students in them. In fact, Borges and Philosophy had 8 students, if I remember correctly. I’d say that on average, the Spanish classes I’ve taken throughout my four years at Hopkins have had about 15 students each. I wanted to point this out because I feel that in language classes more than almost any other subject, having a small class is really important as language classes depend on discussion.
2.) The study abroad opportunities
In the fall of my junior year here I went to Madrid, Spain with a group of about twenty other Hopkins students. Studying abroad was something I had hoped and planned to do since high school, and the three and a half months I spent there were incredible. I lived with a host family, went to a Spanish university, volunteered in a Spanish preschool, and traveled to all the major (and even not-so-major) cities and towns in the country. Being able to speak Spanish allowed me to live and learn comfortably in a country that was totally unlike anywhere else I’d visited, much less lived for an extended period of time, in my life. I think my relationship with my host family was most benefitted by my ability to speak Spanish. I was able to actually get to know them and develop a lasting relationship with them, as opposed to just getting by with simple “Hola”s every time I walked in the door. (The photo is of me in the bilingual preschool I worked at in Spain.)
3.) The future relevance of being conversant or fluent in Spanish
Spanish is a language whose relevance in both the United States and around the world is continually growing. In cities and towns across the country the number of Spanish-speaking residents is continually growing. Furthermore, increasingly more companies require or at least prefer that their employees have the ability to speak Spanish. The United States is becoming more of an international country every day, and knowing how to speak Spanish will both give you an edge and make life much more interesting as it will allow you to talk to and get to know a highly diverse population. (In the picture is a typical fruit stand in Spain.)
As you’re thinking about what you might want to study in college, I encourage you to take what I’ve had to say into consideration. In the end, only you know what interests you and what you’ll enjoy most, but I truly love the Spanish major and have found it not only fun but very useful and very relevant.
Click here to access more information about the Spanish Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and Spanish question thread._______________________________________________________________________________