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.

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 visit.

Portuguese Language Placement Exam

All freshmen who plan to fulfill a language requirement or would like to continue with their study of Portuguese MUST take a Portuguese Placement test. This will take place on Wednesday, September 18th, from 3 to 5 pm, room 1-145.


How to meet with a Department Adviser

All of our Department advisers hold regular office hours that change each quarter. Appointments are not necessary.

Registration Information

Registration Guidelines

Complete registration details.


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:

  • Email the coordinator for the course and the instructor for the section you want to take.  Explain your situation and ask for a permission number.
  • Come to the Department and put your name on a sign up sheet for the course.  If there is enough student interest, another section may open.  If not, the sign up sheets are often used by faculty as wait lists.
  • Show up for the class you want on the first day, even if you are not registered.  The faculty often give out permission numbers during the first week of class and you may be able to receive one at that time. 

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 1-141.  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


And as always, if you have any questions, come see us in the main office, Crowe 3-107, email us at or call us at 847-491-8249.