Our Spanish and Portuguese programs view language as a social form of activity through which you’re immersed in the social setting of the classroom and in the sociocultural environment of the language you’re studying. If it’s Spanish, you will have strong ties to the Hispanic community of Los Angeles. We foster the collaborative construction of knowledge, mediated by cultural artifacts from Latin American and Spanish cultures, as well as active exposure to and use of the language. The program also involves you by considering your preferences and by promoting self-reflective and critical thinking activities on specific aspects of learning process. The main objectives guiding the program are: (1) to introduce you to the target language and culture; (2) to promote the development of your communicative competence in the language; and (3) to develop your intercultural understanding and awareness of the challenges that affect other cultures.
Your courses will underscore content- and task-based teaching and experiential learning. Activities in each class require that you make use of different skills – speaking, listening, writing, and reading – and work individually, in pairs, or groups to complete tasks whose main focus is on meaning, instead of just grammatical form. These activities include role plays, simulations, scenarios, chat discussions/blogs, cultural projects, interviews with and research in the Hispanic community in Los Angeles, etc. However, the formal aspects of the language are not ignored, and no matter your level of instruction (Spanish or Portuguese 120, 150, 220, and 240), you are expected to complete a series of activities with specific linguistic objectives. In addition, the program makes provisions for the metalinguistic analysis of particular aspects of the language whenever learners require it. The material with which you interact usually consists of a textbook and workbook with a strong focus on culture and the functional use of the language. You will be exposed to a variety of cultural artifacts such as paintings, literary pieces, texts from mass and alternative media, comic strips, TV programs, movies, songs, transcripts from interactions between native speakers, and websites. Also, these artifacts reflect different cultural settings and dialects in the Spanish- or Portuguese-speaking world.
The strong focus on the functional use of the language and on culture that prevails in the classroom is also evident in the way you are evaluated. Throughout the semester, students in the four basic levels of instruction participate in oral proficiency interview (OPI) exams in which they need to use the language to solve a real-life situation (e.g., having dinner at a restaurant, changing a ticket reservation, etc.) and to answer personal and general questions. In addition, you are expected to develop group or individual projects on particular cultural or social aspects of local communities in the United States, Latin America, Spain and elsewhere. These projects are PowerPoint presentations, mini-documentaries (digital movies), and web pages. These activities not only require you to synthesize your linguistic knowledge and to activate your skills, but they also provide you with other opportunities to reflect on and immerse yourself in the world of your native and target cultures. The program also promotes your participation in study abroad programs in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Spain, and other countries.
To learn about the language requirement at USC and obtain information on placement, please visit the Language Center.
Photo Credit: Sarah Portnoy, 2022.