As of this summer, the College Board offers AP courses in seven different foreign languages: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin and Spanish.
Not only is Spanish the most studied foreign language in the U.S., it is also the most popular of the AP foreign language offerings. But there is another reason that AP Spanish is unique: It is the only AP language that spans two separate courses. Students can choose Spanish Language and Culture or Spanish Literature and Culture, provided their high school extends both options.
So how do you decide which one to take? Here is what you should know about the two AP Spanish courses before you enroll in either:
— AP Spanish course similarities
— AP Spanish course differences
— Who may benefit from each course
AP Spanish Course Similarities
As you may notice from the course titles — AP Spanish Language and Culture and AP Spanish Literature and Culture — both include the word “culture.” Merriam-Webster.com defines culture as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.”
Thus, you can expect both AP Spanish classes to cover similar facets of Hispanic heritage: customs, celebrations, gastronomy and history, to name just a few. What may differ is the medium through which you learn about them.
For instance, an AP Spanish Literature student may learn about the Spanish conquest of the Americas by reading correspondence between Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. An AP Spanish Language student, on the other hand, may learn about this topic through a brief article followed by guided conversation.
The two AP Spanish courses are also similar in that they expect all incoming students to have a solid grasp of the language’s grammar and vocabulary. Neither course sets aside time for reviewing basic concepts that students should have mastered in their previous years of Spanish study.
AP Spanish Course Differences
Generally, the primary focus of AP Spanish Language and Culture is communicative while the focus of AP Spanish Literature and Culture is literary. The former may include the study of films and music, and places more emphasis on speaking, which is an active language skill. The latter demands strong reading comprehension — a more passive language skill — and exposes students to works by Spanish, Latin American and U.S. Hispanic authors from different time periods.
Instructors generally agree that AP Spanish Literature is more challenging for most students. There are two main reasons for this. First, some of the texts covered in AP Spanish Literature are several centuries old, so they often contain difficult and outdated sentence structures. Second, the Spanish classes that students took in previous years are often more similar to AP Spanish Language in terms of their format and content.
Based on this information, it may be tempting to conclude that AP Spanish Language is more practical and manageable than its sister course, AP Spanish Literature. However, this is a matter of perception, your strengths and weaknesses as a foreign language student and your reason for learning Spanish.
Most colleges award the same number of credits for AP Spanish Language as for AP Spanish Literature. In the California State University system, for instance, a score of three or higher on either AP exam will earn students at least six college credits.
Who May Benefit From Each Course
Students with a love of reading and a strong foundation in the language will fare just fine in AP Spanish Literature. Students who plan to major in a humanities field such as history, anthropology or philosophy can also stand to benefit from the course, as it can bolster their college applications and introduce them to texts they may see again in college.
AP Spanish Language, on the other hand, is probably better suited to students whose goals are to use Spanish in a hands-on approach, such as a hobby or bonus skill in a field like international business. Students whose priority is speaking Spanish in everyday contexts should consider registering for AP Spanish Language, as well.
Since either AP Spanish course can result in college credits, choose the one that aligns best with your strengths and interests.
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