Romance Languages and Literatures First Year Courses

Chair: C. Zegarra

The Department of Romance Languages and Literatures strongly encourages first-year students to continue their previous language study to the highest possible level. We also encourage students to explore the study of other Romance languages offered by the department.

The aim of this department is to provide students with a solid foundation in the languages, literatures, and cultures of the French-, Italian-, and Spanish-speaking worlds. Language courses work to improve students’ abilities in speaking, comprehending, reading, and writing in French, Italian, or Spanish, while providing an introduction to culture. Structured in levels of increasing complexity, literature courses foster the improvement of analytical and critical skills, an enhanced aesthetic appreciation of works of literary art, and a broader understanding of linguistic and cultural diversity. Many of the courses offered in the department may be taken by students who do not plan to major in French or Spanish but who would like to maintain or develop their knowledge of these languages and cultures. Given the multi-cultural nature of the United States today, familiarity with a second language and culture will enhance a student’s preparation for a career in any profession. Advanced study of Spanish or French (300 level and higher) makes the student eligible for the intimate contact with a foreign culture available through the department’s programs of study abroad. A major in French or Spanish is useful for many professions, including law, business, international trade, journalism, education, and public administration.

The department offers majors and minors in both French and Spanish, and study of Italian through the 300-level. Courses counting toward the French and Spanish majors are conducted entirely in the appropriate language.

Please note the following: (1) Students eligible to register for 122 without having had 121 must contact the instructor early to find out how they can most effectively prepare to enter this ongoing course in January. (2) Participation in the department's study abroad programs in Madrid requires previous language study. See information at the end of the departmental description.

Placement Guidelines

Prerequisite guidelines are included in the course listings and the course descriptions posted online to assist first-year students in selecting the appropriate course at Colgate. Students who are unsure of the appropriate language course are encouraged to contact the department chair. In all matters of placement, the department makes the final determination, usually on the first day of classes, when students will be asked to fill out a language background questionnaire. The department will also have information about students’ previous language studies supplied by the Office of the Registrar. After reviewing this information, the department will either confirm placement in the course selected or determine a more appropriate placement. Again, be aware that some courses at Colgate are not offered both terms. Language courses numbered 122 usually are offered only in the spring term. Many first-year students with high school language experience are best placed at the 300-level and are encouraged to register accordingly. Please see our Placement Guideline page for detailed information.

Advanced Placement

Colgate course credit is awarded to students receiving a score of 4 or 5 on the AP French Language or AP Spanish Language and Literature exams. Students receiving a 4 on the language or literature exams will receive credit for 202 in the appropriate department. Students receiving a score of 5 on the language or literature exams will receive credit for 361 in the appropriate department. Students will then normally register for courses at the next higher level. Students receive major or minor credit for an AP score of 5. See the Advanced Placement Credit Summary or consult with the department chair. 

Students who have learned a language in a non-academic way, such as lengthy foreign residence, or who have earned college credit in a language before matriculating at Colgate, should consult the department chair for placement.


(1) Students who have completed two years of foreign language study in high school and need to meet the language requirement are automatically permitted to register for 121 if they consider their prior achievement to be poor. (2) Students who will have had a break in their language study of two years or more or who have SAT verbal scores below 450 may in some instances, with permission of the department chair, register for a course at a lower level than indicated above. 

Programs and Opportunities

Majors and minors are offered in French and Spanish. The University Catalogue has a complete description of the requirements for majors and minors, and first-year students who are interested should plan their courses accordingly. 

Foreign study programs, open to non-majors as well as majors, are conducted in Spain and Italy. The Madrid program, composed mainly of juniors, requires work through the 300 level. The program in Venice is open to sophomores and upper-class students and requires knowledge of elementary Italian (2-3 years of high school Italian, ITAL 121-122 at Colgate, or intensive summer language study in Venice). More detailed information on these groups and on prerequisites is available from the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. Interested first-year students are also encouraged to attend the information meetings that are held during the academic year.

Click the links below to view FREN, ITAL, and SPAN courses available to the Class of 2026

French Courses

Italian Courses

Spanish Courses