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First-Year Focus

Why Study Spanish or Portuguese?

Spanish is currently spoken by nearly 400 million people worldwide! 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 and Portuguese 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 of 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 2024-2025

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.
If you would like to speak to one of the advisers, 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 general 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 courses. 

How to Register for Closed Classes

During the week of registration, some classes tend to fill up quickly and will appear as being closed for registration in CAESAR. 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 would 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 would like to take does not have a coordinator, email the instructor directly to request a permission number.
  • Show up on the first day of class, 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 Portuguese Minor

The process for declaring your Spanish major, minor or Portuguese minor is very simple.  Schedule a meeting with one of our Department advisers, fill out the necessary declaration forms together, and your adviser will submit them to the College.

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 this entails, you can find those requirements here:

Spanish Major | Spanish Minor | Portuguese Minor


General Questions: or call  847-491-8249.

Placement Questions: Elisa Baena, Spanish Placement Coordinator or Ana Thome Williams, Portuguese Placement Coordinator

Major and Minor Programs Questions: Nathalie Bouzaglo, Director of Undergraduate Studies