Second-Year Syllabus

Course Goals

The Spanish Language Program at Stanford University has organized its program of study based on current research on second language acquisition and on an understanding of the extraordinary talents and abilities that Stanford students bring to the study of language. The primary focus of our two-year program is to develop students' abilities to:

  • engage in interactions with speakers of Spanish for a variety of purposes and in a variety of contexts using socially and culturally appropriate forms for participating in conversations, establishing relationships with others, providing and obtaining information, expressing feelings and emotions, and expressing opinions.
  • understand and interpret written and spoken language on a variety of topics and manifest growing awareness of the social and cultural influences shaping the production and use of knowledge in the Spanish- and English-speaking worlds.
  • present information, concepts, and ideas to an audience of listeners or readers on a variety of academic topics.
  • develop strategies that will allow students to continue to acquire and develop their Spanish outside of the classroom and throughout their lifetimes.

It is our goal to help you develop your proficiency in the language so that at the end of two years of study, you will be able to enroll in courses abroad taught in Spanish for native speakers. You will, of course, also be able to continue developing your Spanish proficiency in upper level Spanish courses here at Stanford including courses in Latin American and Spanish culture, linguistics, and literature.

Each of the quarters of the two-year program has a specific set of objectives that we expect our students to meet. The "Progress Card" with objectives for your course is available on the Canvas site. You will be expected to assess your own progress on these objectives.

Instructional Philosophy

We believe that much classroom time must be spent in helping you to develop abilities to communicate and interact in Spanish. Further, communication and interaction involve two important processes: the ability to produce language to say what you mean and the ability to understand language when others speak to you. In our program, then, we will attend to developing your ability to carry out a number of functions in Spanish (e.g., introduce yourself, apologize, suggest, express opinions), and we will also spend much time giving you the opportunity to understand what others say when they introduce themselves, refuse invitations, describe others, suggest and express opinions.

We believe it is equally important to develop your academic skills in Spanish. We will thus spend classroom time in helping you to comprehend written texts in Spanish, to understand academic presentations in Spanish, and to present information on academic topics in which you have a special interest.

Finally, we will attend to structure and to form as well. Linguistic knowledge is important. It is not, however, the principal subject matter of language classes in the Stanford Spanish Language Program. We have found that because Stanford students are very competent academically, they have little trouble understanding and learning key grammatical rules. Much study of formal grammar is assigned to be done outside of class. Clarification and practice of structures and form typically take up less than 20% of the class period.


The Spanish language classroom is an inclusive classroom. Everybody has a name and a pronoun. Your instructor is committed to referring to you with the correct pronoun. Please feel free to correct your instructor in this regard. 

Course Requirements

1. Required texts:

For the Cultural Emphasis Track: Punto y aparte, Second Edition, textbook and interactive CD-Rom. Available at the Stanford Bookstore and on reserve in Green Library.

For the International Relations Track: Consult your instructor.

2. Class format:

Classes in the second-year sequence meet 4 hours per week. Typically, you will spend greater and greater amounts of time per class listening to spoken Spanish, such as news broadcasts, documentary and feature films without subtitles, videos of guest lectures, and live lectures presented by your instructor or by visitors to your class. The purpose of emphasizing these listening activities is to prepare you to study abroad alongside native speakers. Your job when listening will be to focus on deriving as much meaning as you can using all of the cues at your disposal (visual cues, the speaker's intonation, your prior knowledge of the topic, etc.). These presentations will be directly connected to the topics we are covering in our class. You will be amazed at how quickly you improve in your understanding of spoken Spanish in a variety of social contexts.

In class, we will also spend a great deal of time learning and practicing increasingly complex vocabulary and phrases, so that you can use Spanish in an ever increasing variety of contexts. Thus, while you began by interacting with friends and family in first-year Spanish courses, you will now be extending your language use to the academic and professional worlds as well.

Although we will address language structure in class, the focus of second-year courses is content, such as culture and international relations. Language structure will therefore be addressed only within the context of much larger course objectives (such as those listed on the Progress Card), with the ultimate twin goals of increasing your sophistication in dealing with the course content and in using Spanish in general.

3. Requirements

a. Class attendance: Click here for details.


b. Spanish-speaking conversation partner:
You will be asked to identify and get to know someone in the Stanford community who is a native speaker of Spanish. Ideally, you will get to meet with him or her frequently, every week if possible. Your instructor may include this activity in your Portfolio activities. (See below.) Take care to use politeness in seeking a Spanish-speaker. You can start by asking your friends if they know anyone on campus or in the area who speaks Spanish. Remember that speakers of Spanish, just like speakers of English, come from a variety of backgrounds, so don't assume that someone is a native Spanish-speaker based solely on his or her background or appearance. Remember, too, to be considerate and give your conversation partner plenty of notice when you'd like to arrange for a visit. Also, be prepared to return a favor for one extended. For example, your conversation partner might be looking for a jogging partner, or he or she might appreciate a ride to the airport or the grocery store. In addition, many conversation partners are graduate students from outside the U.S. and have appreciated it when students in the Spanish program have offered to proofread academic papers. In this way, many students have developed lasting friendships with their conversation partners.

c. Key Pals:
Your section may also be participating in the 'key pals' or 'teclamigos' program, in which you will exchange e-mails in Spanish with a native speaker. For more information, or to participate in this program individually, contact your instructor.

d. Conversation with the Instructor:
At the end of the quarter, you will schedule a conversation with your instructor. Alternatively, your section may participate in the Simulated Oral Proficiency Interview (SOPI) administered at Stanford each quarter. You will have a great deal of choice in how you want to demonstrate what you have learned to do in Spanish.


e. Portfolio:
Your comprehension of Spanish as you read and listen falls under the "Interpretive" category. In line with our second-year objective of preparing students to understand academic and professional Spanish in order to study abroad in classrooms alongside native speakers, you will be assigned a variety of reading and listening activities. These activities will likely involve "authentic materials," that is, materials created not for classroom use but for native speakers of Spanish. In addition to completing these activities, your instructor may ask you to compile them in a "portfolio" to demonstrate some of the work that you are most proud of.


f. Oral Presentations:
You will give at least two oral presentations during the quarter. Just as with compositions (see below), you and your classmates will delve into the process of preparing your presentations: researching topics, becoming familiar with the vocabulary you'll need to present the topic, learning the phrases you can use to give your presentation a more academic tone, practicing with a tape recorder, etc.

g. Compositions:
You will complete two compositions during the quarter, again utilizing a "process approach." You will type a first draft (double-spaced!) of your essay and receive comments from your classmates on the content and structure of the essay. You will then revise and work on a second draft, with classmates (or your instructor) suggesting areas you may need to edit for spelling and mechanics. Then you will type a final draft to submit for a grade. Please remember to include your name, assignment number or page numbers, and the date in the upper right-hand corner of all your assignments.


h. Self-Assessment:
Your instructor will periodically (every 2-3 weeks) ask you to fill in your progress card as you gain increased sophistication in your use of Spanish. In addition to the progress card, your instructor may ask you to contemplate and assess your progress in a variety of ways, for example, by keeping a reflective journal, or by listening to audio or video-taped presentations you have made and commenting on your progress.

i. Exams/Projects:
Your section will have either a midterm exam or a midterm project, and a final exam or final term paper. This varies from section to section. Your instructor will notify you in writing as to which of these your section will do.