Spanish and Portuguese Basic Language Program Overview

The Spanish and Portuguese Basic Language Program includes Spanish 1010, 1020, 1120 and 2030 and Portuguese 1120 and 2030.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Spanish and Portuguese Basic Language Program at Tulane University is to develop students’ communicative and intercultural competency and proficiency so that they can interact, engage and compete in the global community.

The main objectives guiding the program are to:

  • introduce students to the language and culture of the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world
  • promote the development of students' communicative competence in the target language
  • develop students’ intercultural understanding and social conscience of problems that affect this cultural complex.


The program is framed around modes of communication, as outlined by ACTFL:

  • The Interpretive Mode focuses on reading and listening comprehension.
  • The Interpersonal Mode focuses on exchange between individuals, primarily in terms of Speaking in a conversational framework but also in terms of informal written exchanges (i.e. Facebook and text messages)
  • The Presentational Mode focuses on formal oral and written presentational skills, including articulation of cultural information in these frameworks.

The curriculum is based upon the five identified goal areas of the National Standards for Foreign Language Learning of the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL): Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons and Communities.

To this end, the program seeks to develop students' abilities to:

  • communicate in the target language
  • understand the cultures of the Hispanic and/or Lusophone world
  • connect the study of the target language with their other university studies
  • make informed comparisons about language and culture as a whole
  • participate in a community of Spanish and/or Portuguese speakers

The program is also proficiency-based, with the expectation that students will move through ACTFL’s proficiency scale progressively over the course of their studies.

The interpersonal proficiency goals for the courses are as follows, based upon the ACTFL Proficiency Scale:

  • SPAN 1010    Novice Mid-Novice High
  • SPAN 1020    Novice High-Intermediate Low
  • SPAN 1120    Novice High-Intermediate Low
  • SPAN 2030    Intermediate Low-Intermediate Mid
  • PORT 1120    Novice High-Intermediate Low
  • PORT 2030    Intermediate Low-Intermediate Mid

Interpretive and Presentational Mode goals are on the higher end of the above scales.

Proficiency Objectives by Level

Upon successful completion of SPAN 1010, students can:

  • exchange greetings and pleasantries (including talk about the weather and health);
  • introduce and describe themselves and their friends, family members, hometowns, home and school;
  • order food and drink in a restaurant;
  • give and ask for simple directions;
  • ask and respond to simple questions and complete simple transactions
  • talk about their personal interests using short phrases and sentences;
  • meet practical writing needs such as creating lists, short messages, postcards, and simple notes;
  • manage a number of uncomplicated communicative tasks in straightforward social situations.

At this level:

  • Production is generally student-centered.
  • Students begin to develop language skills that will allow them to survive in a target culture.
  • Information focuses on present actions, immediate future plans, and very basic past events.

Upon successful completion of PORT 1120 or SPAN 1020 or 1120, students can:

  • relate basic personal information covering self and family, daily activities and personal preferences;
  • satisfy immediate needs, such as ordering food and making simple purchases;
  • create with the language in straightforward social situations;
  • ask and respond to simple questions on the most common features of daily life;
  • recombine learned vocabulary and structures into short and simple conversational-style sentences;

At this level:

  • Conversation and writing focuses on concrete exchanges and predictable topics necessary for survival in the target language culture.
  • Students can CREATE with the language, although in an understandably limited way.
  • Students can be understood by native speakers used to the production of non-native speakers.
  • Students write and speak effectively in present time with some use of past and future time.

Upon successful completion of PORT 2030 or SPAN 2030, students can:

  • satisfy simple personal needs and social demands in order to survive in a Spanish-speaking culture;
  • obtain and give information by asking and answering questions;
  • express personal meaning by creating with the language;
  • initiate, sustain, and conclude a variety of uncomplicated conversations in straightforward social situations on generally predictable topics such as personal information covering self, family, home, daily activities, interests and personal preferences
  • satisfy physical and social needs, such as giving and getting directions, finding out prices and obtaining goods and services;
  • complete short, simple, practical communications, compositions, descriptions, and requests for information in loosely connected texts based on personal preferences, daily routines, common events, and topics related to personal experiences and immediate surroundings.

At this level:

  • Writers show evidence of moderate linguistic control and begin to show evidence of deliberate organization in longer written work.
  • Speakers are generally understood by sympathetic interlocutors accustomed to dealing with non-natives.

Methodology and Pedagogy

The classroom serves as a space for task-based and experiential learning in which students practice and apply the skills they are studying by speaking, listening, reading and writing in the target language. Interpretive, Interpersonal and Presentational Modes of communication are all actively engaged and practiced in the classroom.

Students utilize their newly acquired vocabulary and structures in a collaborative manner, working in small groups on role plays, scenarios, discussions, cultural presentations, interviews and research in the local community, or other activities at the instructors' discretion. These activities emphasize meaning while students practice formal aspects of the language such as verb tense and aspect. Through authentic speech and text samples, students receive and interpret models of language use in context.

Guided by a proficiency-based curriculum, instructors evaluate students based upon their ability to use the language. Graded assignments include listening and reading comprehension assessments; oral exams, skits and presentations; out-of-class and in-class writing assignments; and open-ended, content-based written exams which require students to synthesize their linguistic knowledge.

The Language Learning Center, located in 408 Newcomb Hall, has a wide variety of resources and technology to assist language students with their language-learning endeavors.

Simultaneous study of Spanish and Portuguese:

Spanish and Portuguese can be studied simultaneously; it is a fallacy that learning one of these languages will interfere with the process of learning the other.


Spanish Language Program Director: Roxanne Dávila

Portuguese Language Program Director: Megwen Loveless

Tulane University, Spanish & Portuguese Dept., 304 Newcomb Hall, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5518