Spanish for Undergraduates


Are you new to Spanish, or have you spoken it all your life? Is your imagination sparked by the bustling cities of Spain and Latin America, or are you drawn to the vast vistas of those continents? Do you find yourself curious to know more about the cinema, poetry, and fiction that centuries of Spanish speakers have bequeathed to us? Do you dream of exploring the streets of Havana, or Sevilla, or Mexico City, or Madrid? Spanish courses at Cornell will give you a wide variety of opportunities to practice your speaking, writing, and critical thinking skills, encouraging you to explore, as far as you’re able, the unparalleled diversity of the Spanish-speaking world.

Placement and Transfer of Credit

For information about placement, testing, and transfer of credit, please consult our placement page.


Inquiries About the Major or Minor

Inquiries of a general nature can first be directed to the Undergraduate Coordinator, Cal Hile.  Students who wish to major or minor in Spanish are advised to consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Marilyn Migiel, who admits students into the major and assigns a faculty adviser after taking into account a student’s interest, preparation, and career goals.

Marilyn Migiel's office hours are listed on the Department Directory and Office Hours page.

Learning Outcomes

We expect our undergraduate majors to demonstrate:

  • An understanding of the artistic, cultural, political, and social movements within the interdisciplinary field that includes various methodologies (visual and iconographical analysis, semiotics, social history, material science, ecocriticism, etc.) and theoretical models (critical theory, feminism, Marxism, materiality, cultural memory, postcolonialism, etc.) throughout history
  • Critical inquiry and analytical writing in English and the target language
  • The ability to conduct independent research and collaborate creatively within broader regional and global contexts
  • The breadth of knowledge needed to identify, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate cultural theories within specific cultural contexts and theoretical frameworks
  • An awareness of the ethical implications of one’s own work within the academic community and society
  • Mastery of a Romance language –French, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish – at the second year level or higher

Major Requirements

The Spanish major prepares students to engage with Hispanic literary, philosophical, and visual cultures. Along the way, students will develop proficiency in oral, aural, and written Spanish, while becoming astute critical readers and thinkers in Spanish.

Required for the major are four courses and fifteen credits (including one senior seminar, offered each semester) focusing on the Hispanic world: 

  1. SPAN 2140 – Modern Spanish Survey (3 credits), or SPAN 2235 – Perspectives on Spain in Spanish (3 credits, offered in the Fall only)

  2. SPAN 2150 – Contemporary Latin American Survey (3 credits), or SPAN 2205 – Perspectives on Latin America in Spanish (3 credits)

  3. SPAN 2170 – Early Modern Iberian Survey (3 credits)

  4. SPAN 2180 – Advanced Spanish Writing Workshop

  5. One Senior Seminar

  6. Three Electives (each of which must be a minimum 3 credits)

Please note that:

  • Students may declare the major any time after completing SPAN 2095, or after placing into a more advanced Spanish course).

  • Students are also encouraged to study abroad: courses from an institution other than Cornell University may be counted toward the Spanish major, provided that 50% of the content of these courses deals directly with Hispanophone (Spanish-speaking) parts of the world. (Merely being taught in Spanish is not, on its own, a sufficient criterion for a course taken abroad to count for the Spanish major.) Remember that you cannot apply more than three courses taken abroad to the Major.

  • The minimum grade for a course to be applied to the Spanish major is B-.

  • S/U grades are not allowed in courses applied to the Spanish major.   

Minor Requirements

The Spanish minor is designed to give students pursuing other majors the opportunity to engage with and reflect upon Hispanic literary, philosophical, and visual cultures.

Required for the minor are five courses (minimum 3 credits each) focusing on the Hispanic world after the 2095 level. 

Please note that:

  • Required courses: one advanced language course (2130 or 2180) and one Perspectives course.

  • No prerequisite coursework (including elementary and intermediate language courses at the 2095-level and lower) may be applied toward the elective requirement.
  • Students may apply up to two courses from abroad or from another institution toward a Spanish minor. Courses from an institution other than Cornell University may be counted toward the Spanish minor, provided that 50% of the content of these courses, again, deals directly with the Hispanic world (Merely being taught in Spanish is not, on its own, a sufficient criterion for a course taken abroad to count for the Spanish minor.) Remember that you cannot apply more than two courses taken abroad to the Minor.

  • The minimum grade for a course to be applied to the Spanish minor is B-.  

Course Descriptions

Please refer to the Spanish section of the Romance Studies Course Offerings list. See our departmental course roster here.


Completing the French, Italian, or Spanish major with Honors allows students to do independent study on a topic they choose, to work closely with a faculty adviser, and to write a researched critically analytical paper.  For information about completing your major with Honors, please click on the following links:

Guide to the Honors Program and frequently asked questions

Honors Program Application

Study Abroad

For inquiries about study abroad programs, please visit this page.