Hispanic Studies

Express yourself in Spanish and tune in to the voices of Hispanic culture worldwide.

The word Hispanic refers to the Spanish-speaking cultures and peoples of the world, a category that embraces more than 500 million people worldwide. Hispanic culture is global in reach, spanning Europe (Spain), the Americas (16 countries, from Argentina in the south to Mexico in the north), the Caribbean (Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico), and even Africa (Equatorial Guinea). Although these nations share the use of Spanish as an official language, they vary widely in terms of geography, climate, and indigenous culture.

Spanish plays an important role outside these countries as well. In addition to being one of the official languages of the United Nations, it is the tongue of a large and growing Latino population in the United States, an ethnic group that has come to play a prominent role in American politics, society, and culture.

The Department of Hispanic Studies aims to produce graduates armed with both expert knowledge of Hispanic language and society and advanced cross-cultural communication skills, along with the ability to view the world from a multicultural and multidimensional perspective.

1. Curriculum Overview

The Hispanic Studies curriculum consists broadly of two types of coursework: language courses in which students build their skills in Spanish, their major language; and area-studies courses in which they acquire a deeper knowledge of the Hispanic world.

Basic Spanish and Integrated Spanish

In their first and second years in the program, students build their core language skills through Basic Spanish, which consists of six sessions per week. Built around the four language skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking), Basic Spanish seeks to develop a solid grasp of Spanish grammar and functional proficiency over the course of two years. The curriculum is designed to foster rapid progress during the early stages of language learning by using both native Hispanic and native Japanese speakers, who provide instruction in Spanish or Japanese, as appropriate. By the end of the second year, even students with no prior experience in Spanish can read, write, and converse at a basic level.

In years three and four, students solidify these skills and take them to the next level with Integrated Spanish. Unlike Basic Spanish, the upper-level curriculum allows students to choose courses that focus on different skills (such as reading comprehension, oral expression, writing, etc.) according to their own priorities. Each course incorporates such media as newspapers, magazines, cinema, and music from Hispanic cultures around the world, together with scholarly writings on major topics and issues in Hispanic studies. This integrated approach helps students deepen their understanding of the Hispanic world while honing their Spanish language skills.

Basic Hispanic Area Studies

We feel it is vitally important that students acquire some basic knowledge and understanding of Spanish-speaking societies while they are studying Spanish as their major language. A curriculum that focused narrowly on linguistic fluency without building an understanding of the cultural, social, and historical context would make for a sadly superficial university program. To supply the basic historical and cultural knowledge of Spain and Latin America, we have all first- and second-year students complete coursework in the category of basic area studies. First-year students also complete coursework devoted to academic skills; choosing a research topic, carrying out documentary research, writing up reports and theses, and creating and delivering presentations.

The requirements we have looked at so far pertain to our students’ first major, Spanish. In addition to a language major, however, all students in the Faculty of Foreign Studies declare a second major, or concentration—a specialized discipline or geographic area on which they wish to focus systematic study and research. Concentrations directly related to Hispanic language and cultures are European Studies, Latin American Studies, and Linguistics but other concentrations are also available, depending on the student’s chosen research topic. Students should select a concentration and research topic that builds on what they have learned in the Department of Hispanic Studies, but they need not confine themselves to the Spanish-speaking world. The faculty and the department believe in giving students room to grow by providing a flexible learning environment.

2. Long-term and Short-term Study Abroad

Most students in our department participate in long-term or short-term study-abroad programs in Spanish-speaking countries. The Exchange Program and General Study Abroad Program are the two official options for long-term overseas study, but students may also request a leave of absence in order to implement their own study-abroad plan. Academic credits earned under the Exchange Program or General Study Abroad Program can be transferred and recognized for graduation, making it possible for participants to graduate in four years. So far, Sophia University has signed study-abroad agreements with more than thirty Spanish-speaking institutions —sixteen in Spain, nine in Mexico, two in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Peru, one in Guatemala and another in Uruguay. All of them are top universities in their countries and offer a wide range of academic possibilities. Regarding short-term overseas programs, our department offers the following intensive courses: 1) a spring course in Barcelona (Spain), 2) a spring course in Bilbao (Spain), and 3) a summer course in Bogotá (Colombia). In addition, many students make their own arrangements to travel to Spanish-speaking countries and take lessons at private language schools during summer or spring breaks. In the Department of Hispanic Studies, students have many opportunities to study abroad during their undergraduate years.

See the Japanese website for more information