First 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 this site by clicking the specific course buttons. You will be expected to assess your own progress on these objectives.

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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. 

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Course Requirements

1. Required texts:

Protagonistas with Supersite Plus
Available at the Stanford Bookstore and on reserve in Green Library

2. Class format:

This class will meet 5 days a week. Typically, you will spend up to 15 minutes per day listening to spoken Spanish. Sometimes, your instructor will use an overhead with drawings or illustrations and talk about them, pointing to different items, repeating, and starting the description again, essentially providing you with long segments of Spanish all spoken at normal speed. Your job when listening will be to focus on deriving meaning from what is said using all of the cues at your disposal (the picture, your instructor’s intonation, what you already know about the topic, etc.). All of the materials used in these presentations are directly connected to the topics we are covering in the text. You will be amazed at how quickly you learn to understand more and more Spanish!

In class, we will also spend a great deal of time learning and practicing key phrases that you can use to interact with other people. Some are in the book and others will be on handouts. Typically you will work with partners or in groups when working on phrases. When visitors come to class, you will use phrases you have learned to interview them and find out more about them.

Class time will also be spent working on vocabulary, as will a great deal of your home study time as well. You can expect that vocabulary will be a very important part of this course. Often the key to figuring out what someone is talking about is catching a word or two that you already know.

In general, we will follow the assigned textbook. However, because we are primarily guided by the final objectives for the course, you will also be assigned supplementary materials. Sometimes we will cover structure in class; most of the time, however, it will be assigned for home study. Your instructor will make very clear what you are supposed to be able to say using the structure you have studied.

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. This activity is also included in your Portfolio activities (see below). Ideally, you will get to meet with him or her frequently, every week if possible. Some members of the community are heritage speakers who grew up in a Spanish-speaking home in the U.S., and others are native speakers from several different Spanish-speaking countries. To locate a conversation partner, ask your friends if they know anyone on campus or in the area who speaks Spanish, but take care to use politeness in seeking a conversation partner:  remember that speakers of Spanish, just like speakers of English, come from a variety of backgrounds, so don’t assume someone is a native speaker based solely on background or appearance.  Try to find a conversation partner with whom you share interests or activities, for example, in other classes, campus organizations, music or art events, or athletics.  Remember to be considerate when planning to get together:  give your partner plenty of notice and be prepared to return a favor for one extended.  For example, international graduate students have appreciated someone to proofread their research papers in English, or your compa might be looking for a jogging partner, or a ride to the airport or grocery store.  Many students have developed lasting friendships in this way.

c. Portfolio:
You will be asked to keep a portfolio of your contact with Spanish during the quarter. This may include, for example, reflections on your attempts to watch the news, tapes of your conversations (or attempted conversations) with your conversation partner, attempts to read magazines in Spanish, etc. See your course calendar for more details about the Portfolio work expected in your course.

d. Self-Assessment:
Toward the beginning, middle, and end of the quarter, you will be expected to assess your own progress using your progress card. Your instructor or conversation partner will either concur with your assessment or suggest that you need more work.

e. Diagnostics and Midterm:
There will be six 20-minute diagnostics (quizzes) in class on Wednesdays as well as a 50-minute midterm at the mid-point of the quarter. They will focus on testing your learning of key phrases and vocabulary, your ability to understand the written and spoken language, and your ability to produce written Spanish. In addition, oral and written diagnostic assessments (ODAs and WDAs), will be assigned for completion outside of class, although the first of each of these will likely be held during class in the Language Lab, on the first floor of Lathrop.

f. 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.

g. Class homework and lab assignments:
Daily language activity is essential to mastering a language. You will be assigned various activities from your Manual to help you master the vocabulary and other material we are studying.

h. Compositions:
You will also be assigned two compositions to help you practice writing and synthesizing many of your language skills. You will type a first draft (double-spaced!) of your essay and receive comments from your classmates on the content, style, and structure of the essay. You will then write a second, revised draft, taking these comments into consideration. Your instructor will then require a third, edited version of your essay, with spelling and grammar corrections. Please remember to include your name, assignment number or page numbers, and the date in the upper right-hand corner of all your assignments. When you use the computer, you may find it useful to consult the following site to help you type accents on the computer:

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