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First-Year Focus

Why Study Spanish or Portuguese?

Spanish is currently spoken by nearly 400 million people world-wide! It is the official language of 21 countries, spanning 4 continents, with significant populations of speakers in other countries as well. Here at home, native Spanish speakers number 30 million, about 12.5% of the total U.S. population. Furthermore, the percentage of Spanish speakers in the U.S. is rapidly increasing as Hispanic consumers have been declared the fastest growing market segment. Speaking Spanish can open the door to a wide world of professional and personal opportunities.

Portuguese is spoken by about 230 million people worldwide and is the sixth most widely spoken language on the globe. It is the official language of six countries, ranging from Brazil, with its 200 million speakers, to Mozambique, where more than five million people speak Portuguese as their first or second language, to India, with its quarter million Portuguese speakers. The European Union has made it one of its official languages. Over the last two decades, during Brazil's emergence as the fourth largest democracy and the tenth largest economy in the world, Portuguese has become an important language of communication and commence. And there is now a large community of Portuguese and Brazilian immigrants in the United States; the Portuguese language has become commonly spoken in several areas of the U.S.

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Studying Spanish at Northwestern

The major and minor programs offered in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese emphasize an engagement with literary and cultural studies through an attentive reading to the particularities of language and socio-historical context. Our programs are designed to prepare students for fluency not just in the language itself, but in the complexity, diversity and intellectual debates within the discipline.


Spanish Language Placement Exam

All first-year students who plan to fulfill a language requirement or would like to continue with their study of Spanish, and all transfer students who plan to take Spanish MUST take the online placement test before registering for courses. Students are encouraged to take the placement exam early, so as to avoid last minute registration difficulties.

Everything you need to know about taking the online placement test.

Portuguese Language Placement Exam

If you have previous knowledge of Portuguese and would like to continue your studies, you must take the written and oral placement exam. The exam is based on the material covered in the Elementary Portuguese course, PORT 101-1,2,3 and the Intermediate Portuguese course, Port 121-1,2,3. The completion of the Intermediate course with a grade of C- or better satisfies the WCAS Foreign Language Proficiency requirement. 

Everything you need to know about taking the online placement test.


How to meet with a Department Adviser

All of our Department advisers hold regular office hours that change each quarter. Until we’ll be able to offer in-person classes, we will be conducting advising online/remotely.
If you would like to speak to one of the advisors please contact them directly  and make an appointment according to their availability.

Registration Information

Registration Guidelines


The purpose of Pre-Registration is to allow Department majors and minors to register for required courses within their department.  Pre-registration occurs the week before registration and students are allowed to pre-register for a maximum of two classes per quarter. These two classes may be in two separate departments if you are a double major or have declared both a major and a minor. You can register on your own through CAESAR and you do not need a permission number from the Department. 

Please note, however, that we strongly urge our students to see one of our major/minor advisers before pre-registering for any course. 

How to Register for Closed Classes

You may find that during the week of registration, a class you want to register for is full and therefore closed to registration.  You may be able to ask for a permission number to register for a closed class.  In the event that a course you want to register for is full, we encourage you to do the following:

  • Keep checking checking CAESAR to see if a space has opened up in the class you want.
  • If the course you’d like to take has a course coordinator, email the course coordinator with the following information (your name/email address, year at NU, all of the possible times you can take the course – in order of preference), and ask for a permission number.
  • If the course you’d like to take does not have a coordinator, email directly to the instructor.
  • Show up for the class you want on the first day, even if you are not registered, and follow up with the instructor about why you need to take the course.

Declaring a Spanish major, Spanish minor or a Portuguese minor

The process for declaring your Spanish major, minor or Portuguese minor is very simple.  Just stop by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese main office, located in Crowe Hall room 3-107.  After picking up some paperwork, you will meet with one of our Department advisors. The department does not assign advisors: you can see any available advisor.  No appointment is necessary, just stop by during his/her office hours.   After your meeting, return your paperwork to the main office, and you will be added to the Department as a major/minor.

An added benefit of declaring your major or minor in the Department is that it will allow you to pre-register for up to two courses each quarter a week before registration begins for non majors and non-minors.

If you are considering becoming a major or minor, but are unsure of what that entails, you can find those requirements here:

Spanish Major | Spanish Minor | Portuguese Minor


Email us at , or call us at 847-491-8249.

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