Spanish Language at CUNY: History and Significance

MAR 24, 2020 | 4:00 PM TO 6:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




March 24, 2020: 4:00 PM-6:00 PM




Una perspectiva sobre la historia del español en CUNY

I offer in this presentation not so much a history as reminiscences of my own regarding the topic. Spanish in CUNY has been both an object of study and a language of instruction. As an object of study, many have known of it as it is taught in departments of Spanish or modern languages where one studies both the language and the literature in it. From my perspective, I’ve seen it as object of study from the point of view of linguistics and sociolinguistics. As a language of instruction, it has been important at the doctoral level and in the preparation of bilingual teachers. Also, and especially during the institution’s early years, it was an important medium of instruction at Hostos Community College.

Ricardo Otheguy (PhD, The Graduate Center, CUNY) has taught linguistics at CUNY for 40 years. For the first 20 years, he taught in the Program in Bilingual Education at City College, and during the past 20 years in the Program in Linguistics at The Graduate Center and also in the then-called Program in Hispanic Literatures and Languages. His interests have centered on linguistic theory, the study of Spanish in New York and the teaching of Spanish to Spanish-speaking students. Otheguy has developed textbook materials for the teaching of Spanish to Latino students in the United States and is coauthor of Tu Mundo: Curso para hispanohablantes. He has also written Spanish materials for English-speaking students and is coauthor of one the most widely used high school Spanish textbooks in the United States, Avancemos.

Vaivenes: Goya portraits y Goya beans en la enseñanza del español en CUNY

En esta presentación hago un recuento histórico del vaivén filosófico que acompaña la enseñanza del español en CUNY, nutriéndome de la literatura existente, como también de mi experiencia personal como estudiante y profesora en CUNY desde 1967 hasta nuestros días. Propongo que el estudiantado de CUNY, desde sus comienzos, ha tenido un compromiso socio-político, y por lo tanto la enseñanza del español en CUNY ha tenido que incluir no sólo el estudio tradicional de lengua, literatura y cultura elitista reflejada en los Goya portraits, sino también el de los muchos hispanohablantes residentes en NY que consumen Goya beans, a veces como habichuelas, y otras veces como frijoles, porotos, etc. Es precisamente la exigencia estudiantil de que la enseñanza del español en CUNY refleje a ese pueblo latino diverso lo que ha hecho posible que el español en CUNY se distinga, saliéndose del marco disciplinario tradicional de literatura y lengua y nutriéndose de otros enfoques como los de programas de estudios étnicos y de educación bilingüe.

Ofelia García (PhD, The Graduate Center, CUNY) is professor emerita at The Graduate Center, CUNY. García has published widely in the areas of bilingualism, language education and sociology of language. Her concepts of dynamic bilingualism and translanguaging have had a significant impact on understandings of the complex language practices of bi/multilingual students in the twenty-first century.

How it was for me: Language Study and Language Teaching in CUNY​

I will share my experience as a student in both the MA and Ph.D programs, where I have seen many changes in the way language teaching is done. I have witnessed  what Prof. García describes as traditional and elitist approaches in language teaching and choice of content. I have also seen what language study can be when there is real institutional support.

Elizabeth Starcevic (PhD, The Graduate Center, CUNY) is professor emerita at City College, CUNY where she taught Spanish language and literature for 42 years. She has published on the Spanish feminist Carmen de Burgos, the Mexican author Elena Poniatowska and has co-authored texts on Spanish for Native Speakers that are used in CUNY.  A former high school teacher as well, she has also supervised City College students who planned on teaching Spanish in NYC public schools. She worked to expand the study of Spanish in majors such as nursing, business, engineering, medicine at CCNY.



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