Romance Languages and Literatures

Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Studies Undergraduate Programs

The major and minor programs in Spanish, Portuguese, and Catalan prepare students to succeed in a multilingual and multicultural world. Students will be provided with the knowledge and critical skills necessary to understand and engage with the vastly diverse societies and cultural histories of Iberia and Latin America, while also learning how to read and analyze texts with rigor and insight, write carefully and with well-supported arguments, and refine their written and oral expression.

Interdisciplinary Study

Students may choose from a wide range of courses in Iberian and Latin American literatures and cultures, including courses on Basque and Catalan literatures, and courses taught by visiting faculty from abroad. Some of our students concentrate on more than one romance language, in several adaptable combinations. Our students are often double majors who bring to the classroom a multiplicity of perspectives that enrich our interdisciplinary approach to the study of language, literature, and culture. Moreover, many of our majors and minors take cross-listed courses that focus cinema and media studies, art history, Latino studies, music, and Latin American history, among others. For information on majoring in more than one Romance language, see the College Catalog.

Requirements for Major in Spanish Literature

The program in Spanish consists of ten courses beyond SPAN 20300 Language, History, and Culture III, and is aimed at developing a broad knowledge of the field through the close study of major works and the critical techniques appropriate to their interpretation. These courses must include an advanced language course and SPAN 21500 Introducción al análisis literario, which stresses different approaches to literature and culture. Students must also take three courses from the introductory sequence in the history of the literature, plus an additional five courses in literature and culture. Students must complete a substantial part of the course work (e.g., readings, writing) in Spanish in order to receive credit. For full program details see the College Catalog. A summary of requirements is available here.

Requirements for Minor in Catalan, Portuguese or Spanish

Students who elect the minor program in Catalan, Portuguese or Spanish must meet with the HLBS undergraduate adviser before the end of Spring Quarter of their third year to declare their intention to complete the minor. Students choose courses in consultation with the HLBS adviser. Students must submit to the departmental office an approval form for the minor program signed by the appropriate HLBS adviser. Students must then submit a copy of the signed approval form to their College adviser.


The minor in Catalan requires a total of six courses beyond the first-year language sequence (CATA 11100 Accelerated Catalan I or CATA 12200 Catalan for Speakers of Romance Languages I). One course must be an intermediate-advanced language course (CATA 11200 Accelerated Catalan II or equivalent). The balance must consist of five literature and culture courses, including at least one introductory-level course (CATA 21600 Catalan Culture and Society: Art, Music, and Cinema or CATA 21900 Contemporary Catalan Literature).


The minor in Portuguese requires a total of six courses beyond the second-year language sequence (20100-20200). One course must be an advanced language course (above 20200). The balance must consist of five literature and culture courses.


The minor in Spanish requires a total of six courses beyond the second-year language sequence (20100-20300). One course must be an advanced language course (above 20300). The balance must consist of five literature and culture courses, including at least two in the survey sequence.

For full program details, see the College Catalog. A summary of requirements is available here.

Study Abroad

We strongly encourage our students to study abroad, both to improve their language proficiencies, and to gain invaluable cultural experience in a foreign country. The College offers civilization programs in both Oaxaca and Barcelona. The latter also offers courses in the Spring entirely conducted in Spanish that can be counted towards the Spanish major and minor degrees. Language learners can also take the intermediate sequence of Spanish in our Autumn quarter Intensive Language Toledo program), and the College’s direct enrollment program at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (CUC), in Santiago, Chile, affords qualified Chicago students an opportunity to study at one of the strongest and most respected universities in Latin America.

Why Study Spanish?

  • Spanish is one of the three most widely spoken languages in the world, with over 400 million speakers. Moreover, Spanish is not, and has never been, a foreign language in the US, where over 45 million people speak it whether as a first or a second language. It is also one of the fastest-growing languages, and in the United States the number of Spanish speakers is constantly increasing. As a result, no matter what kind of career you would like to pursue, linguistic and cultural competence in Spanish will be an invaluable asset.
  • By studying in our Spanish program, you will gain access to a vast cultural and literary landscape, which spans for almost ten centuries and across continents. Cultural production in Spanish, from novels to movies and theater, from TV shows to poetry and music, is extraordinarily large, and the language is among the most used on the Internet.
  • Our major and minor programs in Spanish equip students with the ability to read, write, and speak at a high level of proficiency, while providing them with the knowledge and the critical skills necessary to understand the vastly diverse literary and cultural traditions of Spain and Latin America.
  • Spanish majors are culturally-sensitive, adaptable, and multilingual individuals who are equipped to communicate effectively with a range of interlocutors.
  • Spanish and Spanish-speakers have always interacted with a variety of languages, peoples, and cultures. Multilingualism and cross-cultural dialogue are constitutive of the societies in which Spanish is and has been used. By enrolling in our programs you will be exposed to a wide variety of languages and cultures.

Why Study Portuguese?

  • Portuguese is the official or co-official language in over 10 countries or regions in South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. With over 260 million speakers, it is the fifth most spoken language in the world and one of the fastest growing European languages, according to UNESCO.
  • A minor in Portuguese will enable you to develop work in a wide range of topics, from Portuguese medieval oral culture to trading agreements among the BRICS countries, from the postwar politics of Mozambique and Angola to the cultural diversity of Brazil.
  • Our program combines a strong focus on linguistic proficiency with a series of courses on culture, literature, and film. You will be able to take both introductory surveys to Luso-Brazilian cultures and more specialized courses focusing on an array of relevant topics to understand the Portuguese-speaking world.
  • A background in Portuguese is an increasingly important professional asset for students specializing in Latin American or Iberian Studies. While the learning of Portuguese by Spanish speakers is notoriously fast, a formal training in Portuguese language and Lusophone cultures is usually necessary for those interested in having a holistic perspective on these regions.
  • Like Spanish, Portuguese language is spoken in a wide variety of multilingual contexts. There are over 250 indigenous languages spoken only in the Brazilian territory, not to mention widely spoken languages such as Umbundu and Kimbundu in Angola, or Bantu languages and Swahili in Mozambique. A minor in Portuguese will provide you with an entry door to these diverse linguistic and sociocultural contexts. It will also enable you to develop original comparative perspectives on the many Portuguese-speaking regions that may crucially impact your performance on your major program.

Why Study Catalan?

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  • With close to 10 million speakers living in four different states (Andorra, France, Italy, and Spain), Catalan occupies a special place among the languages of Europe. Although its recognition as a national language is relatively limited —it is the official language of only one sovereign state (the Principality of Andorra) and since the 1980s is co-official in three autonomous communities within the Spanish State (Balearic Islands, Catalonia, and Valencia)— it is the ninth most spoken language in the European Union, and the eighth language on the Internet.
  • Almost a third of the population of Spain live in areas where Catalan is both the co-official language (together with Spanish) and an essential component of cultural identity. With a literary tradition that dates back to the 12th century, Catalan has maintained an extraordinary dynamism, particularly since the early 20th century, and supported the development of a vibrant culture.
  • Our Catalan program offer a unique opportunity not only to study the language, but also to explore the extent and richness of cultural production in the Catalan-speaking territories. Besides regular courses taught by our regular faculty, each academic year the Joan Coromines Chair of Catalan Studies hosts a course by visiting professors to facilitate the study of Catalan culture from very different perspectives within the Humanities.
  • Students can get a Minor in Catalan or a Major in Romance Languages with Catalan as one of the two languages. Accelerated language courses are offered at various levels, and while knowledge of another Romance language is recommended, students from all linguistic backgrounds are welcome. We also offer courses in Catalan culture and literature taught in English and sometimes in Catalan.
  • We want our students to be in contact with Catalan culture. Along the year we organize several cultural activities (book presentations, film screenings, concerts, etc.). Every April we celebrate the Catalan Book Day (la Diada de Sant Jordi), a Catalan tradition honoring the love of culture--and the culture of love.
  • Students have several study abroad opportunities that go from short periods of time to one full academic year in Barcelona. The program Barcelona: Civilization in Western Mediterranean (Winter or Spring) allows students to spend a quarter at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra. For those who wish a longer program, there’s also the possibility of spending a whole academic year at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, with a direct enrollment program. During the summer, the Institut Ramon Llull offers three-week cultural and language programs for those students who have studied a minimum of two quarters of Catalan language. The Institut Ramon Llull sponsors most of the cost of the program but students can apply for a FLAG award to cover the rest.


Language Study at the University of Chicago