Spanish & Portuguese
Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures
University of Massachusetts
416 Herter Hall
Amherst, MA 01003
Phone: (413) 545-2887
Fax: (413) 545-3178
Undergraduate Program Contact:
Mary Ellen White Maynard
Phone: (413) 545-2807
Graduate Program Contact:
Phone: (413) 545-0544
Who should I contact?
The Spanish and Portuguese programs are designed to enable students to attain the linguistic, cultural and literary knowledge necessary to understand the Spanish and Portuguese speaking worlds. Acquaintance with the many cultures and languages of these worlds has become essential in this age of global communications and the internationalization of economic, political, cultural and social life.
Every year, more than 2000 students take our Portuguese and Spanish courses. We offer elementary, intermediate and advanced classes, as well as intensive language courses, business Spanish online, and Portuguese language online. Besides Spanish and Portuguese, we are the only public university in New England to offer courses in the Catalan language.
Our major and minor programs in Spanish and Portuguese combine the study of language, literature, culture and linguistics. However we also offer courses in the cinema of the Spanish and Portuguese speaking worlds. Our undergraduate students can choose from different international programs, completing their course requirements with credits earned by studying abroad, or enroll into the Thatcher House and experience full integration here on campus. We also offer a wide array of activities such as the Café Series and the recently developed Undergraduate Research Program.
At any given point, we have around 60 students enrolled in our M.A. and Ph.D graduate programs that allow our students to specialize in Hispanic linguistics, Lusophone literatures and cultures, or Hispanic literatures and cultures. Our graduate students have the opportunity to take courses within other departments here at UMass, taking advantage of many graduate certificate programs, but also beneit from the close relationships built within the Five College Interchange.
We believe that the study and appreciation of the diverse and dynamic cultural heritage of the hundreds of millions of Spanish and Portuguese speakers in the Americas, Europe and Africa, including the various Latino communities in the United States, has intrinsic value and is central to a comprehensive liberal arts education.
A major in Spanish, one of the most widely spoken languages globally, provides the student not only with the communication skills, but also with an integrative and cross-disciplinary exposure to a wide variety of literatures and cultures within the Spanish-speaking world: the regions of Spain influenced by Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions, the many countries of Latin America where European, African and Amerindian peoples interacted to form rich and complex cultures, and the Latino communities in the United States with their rapidly growing populations and increasing prominence.
The faculty is fully committed to passing on to students the intellectual benefits to be gained from comprehensive knowledge of these diverse cultures, which have contributed greatly to the ideas, values and accomplishments that have profoundly shaped the global community.
Portuguese is the sixth most spoken language in the world. It is the language of over 200 million people in many different countries, such as Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, East Timor, and parts of India and China. Portuguese is the language of Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago and of Machado de Assis, the most famous Brazilian writer. It's also the language of world-famous Brazilian musicians, sports figures and film makers.
There are important communities of Portuguese speakers in various regions of the United States. Luso-Americans (Americans with Portuguese, Brazilian or Luso-African origin) can be found in all states and there are sizable Luso-American communities in Massachusetts (where Portuguese is the most widely spoken language after English), and also in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New York, Hawaii, Florida, Delaware and Virginia. According to data from the 2000 census, the members of this community amount to more than 1.5 million Americans.
Catalan is one of the four largest languages of Spain (together with Castilian, Euskera and Galician). It is the national and official language of Andorra and co-official language of Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. It is also spoken without official recognition in Southern France, in Aragon (in La Franja) and in the Italian island of Sardinia (in the city of Alghero). About 10 million people speak Catalan in Spain and about 10 million more in the rest of the world.
The presence of Catalan instruction at UMass offers an oportunity to reflect upon the multiculturalism of Spain. Spain is not one, but multiple, and Catalan is an important aspect of its culture. Even for students who focus exclusively on improving their competence in Spanish, a first-hand encounter with a non-Castilian culture enhances their understanding of Spanish society and history.
Furthermore, Catalan is an important tool for students who are specializing in Romance literatures. In the Middle Ages, Catalan was a closely related to Occitan; the vehicle for the poetry of the troubadours. To students of Hispanic linguistics the knowledge of another Iberian language allows them to undertake research projects that compare and contrast different structures of those languages.