Academics Blog

Archive for the Category Spanish



Name: Ali Browder

Year: 2015

Hometown: Wilmington, DE

Major: Spanish

No hay nada mejor que el castellano  

When I tell people that I’m a Spanish major, the usual response is “but don’t you already speak Spanish?” Yes, I do. But the Spanish major here at Johns Hopkins is so much more than learning the language.

Spanish majors at Johns Hopkins have the opportunity to take politics, history, literature, cultural seminars, and film classes all within the department. Most of the classes are taught in Spanish, but a few of the upper-level courses are taught in English. I have studied everything from vampires to dictatorships to Santa Theresa de Ávila all in these upper-level classes. Although language is not the main focus of these courses, the papers are still written in Spanish and professors always take the time to give students corrections on their writing. Spanish majors first take an introduction to literature course, a broad survey of Spanish and Latin American literature, and then they can study literature from any time period or country in the Spanish-speaking world. Beyond the introductory literature class, students are required to take seven upper-level courses. Given the variety of classes offered, Spanish majors have the flexibility to specialize in what interests them. Spanish majors also have the unique opportunity of joining the National Spanish Honor Society after taking these upper-level courses.

One of the courses that I am currently taking is Professor Sieber’s Teatro español del Siglo de Oro, or Spanish Theater of the Golden Age. In this class, we read a play a week and then in class we discuss the play. I had studied some of the plays in previous classes, but what makes this class so interesting is how in-depth Professor Sieber explains the historical background and the themes of the plays. He often argues something that no one in the class noticed while reading the play, and by the end of his explanation we are all convinced that manos do not mean manos or that don Juan is gay. He always adds quite a bit of humor to his lectures, especially chistes verdes.

Studying for the teatro del siglo de oro class

Studying for the teatro del siglo de oro class

Beyond that, mastery of the Spanish language remains an integral part of the Spanish major’s time at Hopkins. Spanish majors must take six semester-long language courses, but this requirement is not as demanding as it seems, as many students can test out of the first four or five language classes. In fact, some students finish the language requirement in their first semester at Hopkins. While continued language study is not required, there are many excellent classes for students who have finished the six levels. Students can take an advanced writing class, a conversational Spanish class, or advanced grammar classes, such as Perfeccionamiento (Perfecting). The courses in the Spanish for the Professions series also include a heavy grammatical component, so they are also excellent choices for the student who wants to continue mastering the language. Business Spanish, Medical Spanish, Translation, and the like all heavily emphasize grammatical concepts. I highly recommend that anyone who has time in their schedule take advantage of all of these classes.

Spanish majors at Hopkins have many opportunities to improve their language skills outside of the classroom. The department hosts many lectures by important international authors. Last spring, the Chilean author and professor Antonio Ostornol visited Hopkins and gave a reading of his latest book. This spring, my favorite author, Argentine Andrés Neuman, will be visiting Hopkins.  While the department brings these wonderful authors to students, Spanish majors also have the opportunity to learn more about the Spanish-speaking world by taking classes abroad (and having the credits count towards the major!). Many students spend a semester or two in Spain, Argentina, and Chile. I will be spending next semester in Logroño, Spain.

I am a Spanish major because the department is so fantastic. Some of my favorite classes so far have been Modern Spanish Culture, Advanced Composition, Perfeccionamiento, Traducción, Senior Seminar: Literaturas y culturas del Cono Sur, and Don Quijote. Actually, it was in that senior seminar that I learned a lot about vampires. The professors in the department are so knowledgable, and they teach far more than what is specified on the syllabus. Once I graduate from the program, I plan to study for my doctorate in Spanish literature. I eventually want to be a professor, and my time here has given me the confidence to want to pursue graduate studies in the discipline. I can’t say enough about how wonderful the Spanish program at Hopkins really is.



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 partSpain 296 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 Spain 457other 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 highCumples de Nacho, mam+í y varias07 208 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
Spain 324 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.