Frequently Asked Questions

Please consult the information below for answers to frequently asked questions that the Spanish area receives. If you do not find the answer to your question, please contact the WLL advisor.

Major and Minor Requirements

1. I am interested in majoring in Spanish. What are the requirements for the Spanish major?

The requirements for the Spanish major are described here.

2. I am interested in minoring in Spanish. What are the requirements for the Spanish minor?

The requirements for the Spanish minor are described here.

3. I am a heritage speaker* of Spanish interested in majoring/minoring in Spanish. Where do I start?

Recommendations for heritage speakers of Spanish are described here.

4. I am a native speaker* of Spanish interested in majoring/minoring in Spanish. Where do I start?

Recommendations for native speakers of Spanish are described here.

5. What is the distinction between the terms “heritage speaker” vs. “native speaker”?

Spanish heritage speakers are Spanish/English bilingual individuals who have grown up in Spanish-speaking environments in the United States.

Spanish native speakers are individuals who have recently arrived in the US and/or have had extensive schooling in Spanish in Spanish-speaking countries.

Categories such as native, non-native and heritage refer to the students’ linguistic proficiency level and are determined by the Spanish area.

6. I want to declare a major/minor. How do I do that?

Students wishing to declare a Spanish major or are in need of general advising, should send an email to Dr. Alberto Pastor (apastor@smu.edu) for an initial advising appointment. 

7. I have already declared my major and I have specific questions about what courses to take and other specific questions pertaining to my Spanish major (information about study abroad programs, etc.). Who do I talk to?

If you have declared your major, you must see your assigned adviser. The adviser you have been assigned to depends on your last name. See the list below to determine which adviser to consult.

Last name starting with:

A – E with Dr. Olga López-Valero Colbert

F – J with Dr. Luis Maldonado

K – O with Dr. Francisco Morán

P – T with Dr. Elizabeth Russ

U – Z with Dr. Gabriela Vokic

8. I am a native speaker* of Spanish and have scored above a 701 on the Spanish placement exam. Whose permission do I need to get into SPAN 4395 (Introduction to Hispanic Literature)?

To get into SPAN 4395, the student first needs the permission of the professor whose section s/he wants to take. S/he does not need the permission of the Spanish Area chair or the WLL Department Administrative Assistant. The student should email the professor directly. S/he should keep in mind that whether s/he will get accepted is at the professor’s discretion. The professor has the right to decline and/or to suggest that the student enroll in another, under-enrolled section of the same course.

Then, if approved for enrollment by the professor, the student will need to forward that approval to the WLL advisor, so she may enroll the student in 4395. Self-enrollment will not be possible due to the need to override prerequisites for 4395.

Placement Test

1. I am a non-native speaker of Spanish. Do I need to take the Spanish placement test?

If you are a non-native Spanish speaker, you must take the Spanish placement test.

2. I have taken the Spanish placement test. Now what?

Once you have completed the test, print out your results. The printout should indicate the date and time you took the test, your score and the level in which you placed. Turn the placement test results in to your Spanish instructor the first day of class. The instructor will use the results to make sure you are accurately placed. The instructor has the right to disallow you from taking class if s/he does not have your placement test results. If you decide to change sections and/or levels, you must present your placement test results to all the instructors in whose classes you desire to enroll.

3. I am a transfer student (Spanish native, Spanish heritage or Spanish non-native*) and I have already taken Spanish courses in other colleges/universities. Do I need to take the Spanish placement test?

If you are a transfer student (regardless of whether native, heritage or non-native Spanish speaker), SMU does not require that you take the placement test and you will be able keep the credit hours that you transferred, which will count toward the total academic units you need to graduate. However, the Spanish Area requires that you take the placement test if you intend to in any way get involved with Spanish at SMU (i.e. pursue a major, a minor, take a course as an elective, etc.) since Spanish programs vary vastly from one academic institution to another. More specifically, taking a placement test will accurately determine your level of proficiency and place you in a course that will best reflect your learning needs.

4. I am a heritage speaker* of Spanish. Do I need to take the Spanish placement test?

If you are a heritage speaker, you must take the Spanish placement test.

5. I am a native speaker* of Spanish. Do I need to take the Spanish placement test?

If you are a native speaker, you must take the Spanish placement test.

Level Switching and Combining

1. I took a placement test and I got into a level that is very easy/extremely hard for me. Can I switch to another level?

In exceptional cases the Spanish area chair will authorize changes of level in order to best accommodate the student’s level of Spanish competence and his/her learning needs. The change of level must first be recommended by the instructor of the level the student is enrolled in at the time s/he is considering the switch.

Whether switching to a higher or lower level, the student must keep in mind that the switch of level does not guarantee in any way automatic success in the new course. More precisely, the student’s success in the new course will be determined solely and exclusively by the time, effort and dedication invested in it.

In addition, before considering the switch and asking the instructor’s permission, it is highly recommended that the student do the following:

a) Thoroughly analyze the syllabus and acquaint him-/herself with the topics to be covered throughout the semester in the course in which s/he is currently placed. More specifically, very frequently students are not sufficiently challenged in the initial weeks of the semester because these coincide with review of the topics seen in previous semesters or years of study.

b) Thoroughly analyze the syllabus and acquaint him-/herself with the topics to be covered throughout the semester in the course in which s/he desires to be placed (email the instructor for a copy). More specifically, the student is advised to make sure that the desired level will not be excessively hard, because not more than one switch per student per semester will be allowed.
c) Make sure that the desired level is offered during the days and times that fit in with the remainder of his academic schedule.

Level switch requests will not be considered after the end of the add/drop period. After this date the student has the option to drop the course and enroll in the desired level the subsequent semester. The student accepts full responsibility for the impact this course drop may have on his/her career (required minimum amount of credit hours, financial aid, etc.). Finally, the student should consider that even if his/her level switch is approved, enrollment in a desired class might be closed due to the class being full, in which case the student will have to wait to enroll the subsequent semester.

2. I am a non-native speaker* of Spanish enrolled in SPAN 3358 (Advanced Spanish for non-native speakers), but this course is not sufficiently challenging for me. Can I switch to SPAN 4358 (Advanced Spanish for heritage speakers)?

As a general rule, students who are non-native speakers of Spanish will not be allowed to transfer from SPAN 3358 for non-native speakers to SPAN 4358 for heritage speakers. Scarce exceptions will be made in cases when the student has lived and/or attended school for one or more years in a Spanish-speaking country (study abroad programs excluded).

3. Can I combine different level courses in the same semester? For instance, can I take 3358 and 4395 concurrently or 2302 and 3358, or 4357 and 5340, etc.?

The students are not allowed under any circumstance to combine courses that belong to different levels (i.e. 2000 and 3000, 3000 and 4000, etc). The underlying assumption is that lower level classes will adequately prepare you and help you transition smoothly into a higher level, where an increased level of difficulty awaits you. However, students are allowed to combine courses within individual levels. Thus, it is fine to take several 3000 courses at the same time, and the same applies for the level 4000 and 5000.

Transfer Credit Approval for 4000- and 5000-level Courses Taken Abroad

The Spanish program at SMU strongly encourages study abroad experiences for its majors and minors. Most commonly, courses taken as part of a study abroad program are transferred as equivalents of and awarded credit for 3000-level courses taken at SMU.

In principle, the Spanish program also encourages qualified students to consider taking 4000- and 5000-level courses as part of their study abroad experience. However, we recommend that such students keep in mind the following considerations:

1. Bank of Pre-Approved Courses

Some study abroad programs already have a bank of pre-approved courses. Therefore, before seeking credit for new courses, your first step should be to consult the SMU Abroad Course Database, ascertain which courses have already been approved, and consider how they might fit with your plans and needs. For a database of pre-approved courses, click here.

2. Courses Not Yet Approved

For courses not yet approved, there is a petition process in place that begins with the student requesting course approval from SMU Abroad. SMU Abroad then distributes information about the course collected by the student to the appropriate department or program. This process takes time and results in the course either being approved or denied for credit. In some cases, conditional approval may be granted providing that the student brings back all course materials and assignments for review after the semester abroad. To start a petition process, click here.

3. SPAN 4395 (Introduction to Hispanic Literature) and SPAN 4357 (Introduction to Hispanic Linguistics)

Since 4395 is a mandatory course for majors and a prerequisite for all 5000-level literature courses, and 4357 is a prerequisite for all 5000-level linguistics courses, the student must either:

a) Take SPAN 4395 or SPAN 4357 prior to beginning the study abroad program. Remember, if you plan on taking 5000-level literature or linguistics courses abroad, you must choose this option, since 4395 and 4357 are pre-requisites for 5000-level courses.

OR

b) Take an equivalent of 4395 or 4357 offered by the study abroad program. Please be aware that, given the specialized goals and learning outcomes of these courses, there is a strong likelihood that such an equivalent may not exist. Once a student has identified a course that appears to be an equivalent of 4395 or 4357, he or she should follow the petition process described in the SMU Abroad website. Unless very detailed information about the instructor, content, assignments, and learning outcomes of the course are available, it is likely that the course will be assigned a 3000-level equivalent or receive only conditional approval for credit as 4395 or 4357. In the latter case, the student is responsible for maintaining a dossier consisting of all academic materials used in the study abroad course (including but not limited to the syllabus, notes, written assignments, tests) and submitting it to the Spanish area chair upon return to the SMU campus. In consultation with the literature or linguistics professors, the area chair will inspect the dossier and determine if SMU course credit can be awarded for 4395 or 4357, respectively.

4. 5000-Level Literature and Linguistics Courses

If a student wishes to take a 5000-level course abroad, he or she should begin by consulting the bank of pre-approved courses (described above) on the SMU Abroad website, to see if any suitable courses have already been approved. In the case that no courses, or an insufficient number/variety of courses, have been approved, the student should initiate the petition process to request SMU credit through SMU Abroad (described above and on the SMU Abroad website). This process, which should be completed prior to commencing a study abroad program, results in one of three decisions: denial of credit, approval of credit, or conditional approval of credit.

a) Denial: If the course is of insufficient quality or rigor or does not conform to the requirements and learning outcomes of the Spanish program, it may be denied for SMU credit.

b) Approval: If sufficient information about the course and its instructor(s) is available, and this information indicates that the course is of sufficient quality and rigor and conforms to the requirements and learning outcomes of the Spanish program, approval may be granted. In this case, the student will receive SMU credit for the course upon its successful completion and the course will be added to SMU Abroad’s bank of pre-approved courses for a period of no less than five years.

c) Conditional Approval: When insufficient information is available to make a final judgment, conditional approval for SMU credit may be granted. In this case, the student is responsible for maintaining a dossier consisting of all academic materials used in the study abroad course (including but not limited to the syllabus, notes, written assignments, tests) and submitting it to the Spanish area chair upon return to the SMU campus. In consultation with the literature or linguistics professors, the area chair will inspect the dossier and determine if SMU credit can be awarded.

N.B.: Please note that conditional approval does not guarantee that SMU credit will be given for the course. The Spanish area reserves the right not to approve the course if, upon inspection of the dossier, they deem it not to be of sufficient quality and rigor, or to conform to the requirements and learning outcomes of the Spanish program.

Peninsular Literature Committee: Dr. Denise Dupont, Dr. Olga López Valero Colbert, and Dr. Alicia Zuese

Latin American Literature Committee:  Dr. Luis Maldonado, Dr. Francisco Morán, Dr. Elizabeth Russ, and Dr. Rubén Sánchez Godoy

Hispanic Linguistics Committee: Dr. Alberto Pastor and Dr. Gabriela Vokic


*NOTE: Categories such as native, non-native and heritage refer to the students’ linguistic proficiency level and are determined by the Spanish area.