To be able to communicate in a foreign language is a fundamental asset in any profession, from careers in education, translating and interpreting, to those in international studies, health, business or law. A minor in Spanish addresses the needs of students who seek the ability to communicate in more than one language in order to be competitive in their chosen profession. The study of Spanish language and culture is of special importance in the United States, the country with the second largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. The Spanish minor offers students the linguistic confidence needed for studying in another country and the benefits of being exposed to other cultures.
Program Learning Outcomes
Upon finishing the Spanish minor, we expect students to have developed supporting skills in critical thinking, written expression, reading, listening and oral proficiency in Spanish, meaning that students will:
- Possess Spanish listening and speaking skills equivalent at least to the advanced level of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines: Understand the main ideas of most speech in a standard dialect and use oral Spanish to speak about a variety of everyday activities, school, and work situations, but also to support opinions, explain in detail and hypothesize.
- Possess Spanish reading skills equivalent at least to the advanced level of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines: Understand parts of texts that are conceptually abstract and linguistically complex; demonstrate awareness of the aesthetic properties of language and of its literary styles, which permits comprehension of a wider variety of texts, including literary texts.
- Possess Spanish writing skills equivalent at least to the advanced level of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines: the student will be able to write about a variety of topics with significant precision and detail, and to produce organized compositions and short research papers.
- Be able to identify the linguistic and pragmatic components of the Spanish language.
- Demonstrate in their oral presentations, compositions, research papers and other class assignments a reasonable knowledge of the ways of thinking, behavioral practices, and the cultural products of the Spanish-speaking world.
Program Assessment Results
Each year, our program assesses the classroom learning experiences of students to ensure that students are building the necessary skills and knowledge-base in this discipline. The assessments allow our program to engage in continued creative and visionary curriculum and instruction approaches that ensure students are exposed to rigorous undergraduate training. Every discipline has a unique assessment schema and set of student performance benchmarks, reflecting the priorities of the discipline.
From the 2012-2013 program assessment, we focused on the Spanish minor while the Spanish major was under formalization with the university. Here, we were able to understand how well the minors identify common grammatical errors, and major syntactic and morphological issues pertinent to the Spanish language. The student population sampled (N=41) included minors across class levels, 27 seniors, 12 juniors, and 2 sophomores. The students were tested with an quiz outside of coursework.
Additional information about the student population matters for understanding the results. 39 students were Spanish Heritage Speakers (H). 3 students were non Spanish Heritage Speakers (NH). While a certain difference in the results were observed based on student class standing and H vs. NH, it is also important to consider the courses that students completed for the minor. (With the Spanish minor coursework, students were previously not required to complete a regimented set of classes.)
The exam results indicate:
- The majority of seniors and juniors demonstrated proficiency.
- 100% of sophomores have a proficient level regarding their understanding of Spanish linguistics.
- The majority of heritage learners demonstrated proficiency.
- The majority of non-heritage demonstrated proficiency.
- 100% of all seniors and juniors demonstrated proficency in their understanding of the pragmatic use of language.
As expected, most students that took Spanish Linguistics (SPAN 110) performed much better in some of the exam questions that dealt with syntactic and morphological issues than those students that did not; the percentage of proficient students that took SPAN 110 is almost double than for the students that did not take the course. Similarly, even though all students demonstrated a proficient understanding of the pragmatic use of language, the percentage of students that received a score of excellent among the students that took SPAN 110 is more than the double than for student that did not take the course.
This same sampling of students completed survey questions, providing their feedback on learning common grammatical errors, and major syntactic and morphological issues pertinent to the Spanish language. We learned the following.
- Most students feel that their understanding of Spanish linguistics and their grammar accuracy when speaking and writing has improved since studying in the minor.
- Most students feel that they are able to understand the different uses of language. This result is very positive, especially in the case of the three NH students, who expressed that they are able to understand language functions in different contexts most of the time.
- While a considerable number of students feel that their understanding of Spanish linguistics will improve with more activities inside and outside class, there is an even greater number of students who consider that their improvement depends on their personal efforts (attention to instructor’s feedback, and study more).
- A high number of students think that more linguistic courses should be added to the Spanish curriculum, which we will be able to accomplish with the Spanish Linguistics new hire in the near future.
Student graduates from our program are currently engaging in graduate studies and careers. A few of these after-college endeavors are listed below. If you have an alumni update to share, please contact the Office of Alumni Relations so we can share your success!
Student graduates from the Spanish minor are studying at the University of California campuses at Berkeley, Davis and Los Angeles; University of Southern California; and Pepperdine University.
From a message sent by a former student now studying in the Spanish Literature master's program at UC Davis: "Sí, gracias a Dios y a la preparación que usted me dio me ha ido bien en los seminarios y con los dos últimos cursos introductorios de español 1 y 2 que les he estado impartiendo a estudiantes de pregrado que quieren aprender a hablar y a escribir el idioma."
Student graduates from the Spanish minor are working in a variety of professional settings including legislative departments, school districts, state agencies, and university administration offices.