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Spanish 1 — Instructor-Led for Independent Learners


SPRING 2023 REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED. Please join the waitlist to learn more about joining the next course.

SPACE IS LIMITED to 85 participants to ensure an ideal student-to-instructor ratio. Zoom classes meet every Thursday from 6-7pm ET.

First-semester course teaching the Spanish language and Spanish-speaking cultures, taught by Carnegie Mellon University faculty for students with an intense desire to learn the language. Is Spanish 1 or Spanish 2 right for you?

Participants can earn a certificate of completion if they meet the requirements. 


Spanish 1 is media-rich and interactive, driven by video that was shot on-site in Guadalajara, Mexico. The latest update includes an instructor-led version of the course with scored assessments for independent learners. It is designed to be used as a full course of study occurring over a 16-week period.

In the instructor-led course, you will have a weekly synchronous class (60-minutes) on Zoom in which you will get the opportunity to practice your Spanish speaking, grammar, and vocabulary skills with your peers. You will also receive weekly emails from your instructor with suggested pacing for moving through the lesson materials. Additionally, you will be able to email your instructor with any questions you may have about the course.

To successfully use this course, you should be a motivated adult student (aged 18 and up) with a sincere desire to learn the Spanish language and about cultures in the Spanish-speaking world, and be comfortable with computer technologies. The time commitment will typically range from seven to nine hours a week.

Click here for more comprehensive information about Carnegie Mellon University’s online instructor-led courses.

Additional software or materials required:

You will be required to use videoconferencing software, such as Zoom, which you will be able to use for free with the link that your instructor provides you.

Topics covered:

  • Introductions and Greetings
  • Physical and Personality Descriptions
  • Popular Hobbies
  • School and Studies
  • Food and Restaurants
  • Home and Family

This course is part of a two-semester sequence (Spanish 1 & 2). Each course is divided into 12 thematic lessons, with ample opportunity for reentry and review. Each lesson contains short video components to contextualize the material. Segments of the video are then replayed in a variety of interactive activities and tutors. All videos were filmed in Mexico, incorporating authentic speech, cultural references, and gestures.

Lesson structure:

The beginning of each lesson is always a set sequence, from recognition of language, through explicit learning of grammar and pronunciation, to written and spoken production. After this ordered beginning, many activities are offered to the student in which the language learned is used in understanding new texts, sounds or videos, or in creative production. Lesson tests and exams are available to students enrolled in instructor-led courses.

Is Spanish 1 or Spanish 2 right for you?

Are you wondering whether you should sign up for Spanish 1 or Spanish 2? Use the following table to help you decide. This table was designed with common experiences of language learners. If you can say “yes” to more prompts in the “Spanish 1” column, then Spanish1 is recommended. Likewise, if you can say “yes” to more prompts in the “Spanish 2” column, then Spanish 2 is likely to be a good fit for you.

Spanish 1 might be right for you if… Spanish 2 might be right for you if…
You have never taken Spanish before. You have taken at least one semester of college Spanish or two years of high school Spanish, in the recent past.
You took a year of college Spanish, but it has been several years since. You remember most of the basics that you have learned. You’re comfortable with verbs in the present tense, ser, and estar.
You took some Spanish in high school, but it has been a long time since. You can introduce yourself, say your age and origin, talk about what you like to do in Spanish.
You would like to learn the fundamental Spanish structures and vocabulary for greetings, personality, dates and times, age, appearance, hobbies, work, family, and food. You have been exposed to speaking and writing in the past in Spanish. There is a review of the pretérito in Spanish 2, but it helps if you have seen it before.
You may have some self-study in the form of Spanish language learning apps, but you’re looking to formalize what you know and to learn more. You may not have had formal study, but you have had extensive self-study in the form of using Spanish language learning apps and or books consistently for at least a year.
You feel like you might fit into the Spanish 2 categories, but you want to build your confidence with your foundations in Spanish. You have extensive experience learning another Romance language, like French or Italian, and you also know a little bit of Spanish.
No one in your family speaks Spanish. Your family speaks Spanish and you can understand, but would like to feel more confident responding in Spanish.


If you still have questions about whether to sign up for Spanish 1 or 2, you can contact Natalie Amgott (namgott@andrew.cmu.edu). 

Instructor-led course features

Instructor-Led Courses

$50per student
  • Instructor-led OLI courses enable independent learners to study a subject over a 16-week period with a weekly live class on Zoom with their instructor and peers. Courses are:

    • Taught by a Carnegie Mellon University Instructor
    • Not self-paced. There will be weekly deadlines and students will complete approximately one lesson per week.
    • Include a certificate of completion
  • Includes the learning materials and assessments, weekly live class on Zoom (60 minutes), weekly emails, and the ability to contact the instructor for questions

  • Certificate of Completion (70% or more on exams) or Certificate with Distinction (90% or more on exams) available to learners meeting the requirements

  • *If your teacher gave you a Course Key, do not use an Independent Paid course because your teacher will never see your work.

Important dates

You can enroll in Spanish 1 — Instructor-Led for Independent Learners at any time before the first day of class. 

  • Start date: January 19, 2023
  • End date: May 5, 2023

NOTE: Please visit the Zoom class schedule tab for information on your live Zoom meetings.

Zoom class schedule

Meet with your instructor and peers via Zoom:

  • Thursdays from 4:30-5:30pm Eastern Time (ET)

Use a time zone conversion tool to convert this to your local time.

What students will learn

By the end of this course, students will learn to:

  • recognize key elements of spoken exchanges.
  • become automatic with words and phrases that will be the foundation for their Spanish
  • comprehend and write written words and expressions.
  • identify correct grammatical forms.
  • Speak about themselves (introductions, family, origins, age, personality, work, activities)

Learning objectives by module

Spanish I Learning Objectives list

Lesson 1

In this lesson you will learn:

  • to introduce yourself and your friends
  • to describe yourself and your friends and family
  • to talk about your classroom and basic activities of the class

You will also discover:

  • a basic history of the Spanish language
  • how people meet and greet each other in Latin America and Spain

Lesson 2

In this lesson you will learn:

  • to talk about some of your daily activities
  • to talk about what you like and don’t like

You will also discover:

  • information about many other languages spoken in Latin America and Spain
  • some of the arts and artists of Guatemala, as well as about the country itself

Lesson 3

In this lesson you will learn:

  • to discuss your studies and jobs
  • to talk more about daily activities
  • to tell time and explain what time and day you have class or do certain activities

You will also discover:

  • what university life is like for students in Latin America
  • some interesting things about professional life in Latin America and Spain
  • how the education system functions in Mexico

Lesson 4: 

In this lesson you will learn:

  • how to explain more of your activities and hobbies
  • how to talk about your family members
  • more ways that you can talk about things you or other people have

You will also discover:

  • about archaeological sites in Perú
  • about family life in Spain

Lesson 5

In this lesson you will learn:

  • to make plans and talk about the near future
  • to talk about important dates and times of the year
  • to talk about the weather

You will also discover:

  • information about the Dominican Republic
  • different concepts of time in the Spanish-speaking world
  • diverse climatic conditions in Latin America

Lesson 6

In this lesson you will learn:

  • how to talk about the location of people and things
  • how to discuss actions that are in progress
  • how to express how you are feeling, both physically and emotionally

You will also discover:

  • interesting parts of Puerto Rico
  • the tradition of celebrating the 15th birthday as an important milestone

Lesson 7

In this lesson you will learn:

  • to talk more about some of your likes and dislikes
  • to discuss your hobbies and pastimes
  • to conjugate many more verbs!

You will also discover:

  • about Colombia, and Gabriel García Márquez
  • the impact of telenovelas in the Spanish-speaking world

Lesson 8

In this lesson you will acquire:

  • more ways to discuss your daily activities and habits
  • differences between por and para
  • reflexive verbs, or actions you do to yourself

You will also learn about:

  • Cuba, and in particular about women in the film industry
  • the Cuban artist Wilfredo Lam

Lesson 9

In this lesson you will learn:

  • more nuanced ways to talk about your preferences and your emotions
  • how to make comparisons between people, places, and things
  • to discuss your obligations and duties

You will also read about:

  • Ecuador and its biodiversity
  • The famous architect, Gaudí, and his influence in Barcelona.
  • Contemporary architecture in Mexico

Lesson 10

In this lesson you will learn:

  • to discuss actions in the past
  • about traditions and celebrations

You will also explore:

  • Latino populations in the United States
  • the diversity of the Spanish language as it is spoken throughout the world

Lesson 11

In this lesson you will acquire:

  • more preterite conjugations
  • many words and expression to talk about clothing and shopping

You will also read about:

  • Uruguay and some of the linguistic variations in the Río Plate region.
  • the Rastro market in Madrid
  • the tradition of bargaining, depending on where you shop

Lesson 12

In this lesson, you will learn:

  • more about verbs, and some contrasts between different tenses
  • to discuss food and nutrition, an essential every-day topic!

Additionally, you will discover:

  • some of the rich culinary traditions of Venezuela, and about the cultural value of sharing meals and conversation.

Other course details

This course will be taught over 16 weeks.

Project Director

  • Dr. Christopher M. Jones


  • Dr. Rocío Domínguez
  • Dr. Therese Tardio

Assessment Design

  • Dr. Rachael Gulish

Contributing authors

  • Sarah Aguilar Francis
  • Nick Cheadle
  • Julia Conti
  • Marifelix Cubas Mora
  • Dr. María Pía Gómez Laich
  • Dr. Rachael Gulish
  • Marcy Held
  • Roxanne Rodríguez
  • Laura Valcarce
  • Valerie Wortley
  • Contributing authors to Spanish Online 2.0: Drs. Beatrice DeAngelis; Bladimir Ruíz; Alexander Waid: Jorge Porcel; Kim Murday

Technical Lead

  • Marc Siskin

XML coding & proofing

  • Molly Cook
  • Sarah Aguilar Francis
  • Roxanne Rodríguez
  • Summer Slabinkski
  • Laura Valcarce
  • Samantha Walker
  • Katterin White

Tutor programming

  • Ross Strader (OLI)
  • John Kowalski
  • John LaPlante (CTAT)

Media specialist

  • Marc Siskin

Additional video credit

  • Julia Conti
  • Therese Tardio
  • Stephanie Haber


  • Ruth Robles
  • Alejandro Pelayo
  • Adriana Patricia Muñoz
  • Oscar A. Gutiérrez Estrella
  • Fátima Ramírez Corona
  • Sebastián Ladeaki

Funding credits

  • The Open Learning Initiative (Hewlett Foundation)
  • Berkman Faculty Development Fund, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Department of Modern Languages, Carnegie Mellon University

Special thanks to

  • ITESM-Guadalajara
  • Dickinson Guest House B&B, Guadalajara, México
  • CEDINM, Camagúey, Cuba

Course structure

Once you have decided that this course is appropriate for you, it will be helpful to know how the course functions. Each lesson is organized around a theme and divided into six sections. The sections are:

  1. Funciones comunicativas: In this first section, you will be introduced to the practical function that the lesson serves in the real world – what it will enable you to do and why it is important. You will gain insight into how speakers of Spanish use certain types of language, for example how to make commands or give recommendations. In addition, through the presentation of short dialogues and video, this section contains much of the active vocabulary you will need for the lesson as a whole, so pay close attention! It is important to understand that you may not understand each and every word; don’t be frustrated, that is part of the learning process — to understand as much as possible from context without knowing each and every word.
  2. Vocabulario: In this section you will find a very straightforward presentation of words and expressions that you will need to talk about the lesson’s theme. These lists most often are words that were not presented already in the “Funciones” section. You can click on each word to hear pronunciation and also see rollover translations.
  3. Estructuras gramaticales: Here you will find the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the lesson, in other words, more detailed explanations of grammar rules and how the language works. So, you will learn such things as verb conjugations, or what word order to use in certain types of sentences, for example. This section will give you more insight into patterns of the language so that you can move from simple words to longer, more complex expressions, both in writing and in conversation. Since you will be working independently in most cases, we have provided rather detailed explanations of how the language works.
  4. Esbozos culturales: In Esbozos culturales, you will be reading short selections on a wide variety of cultural topics — famous figures from the world of art, music, film, and literature. In Esbozos culturales, you also will find readings about different Spanish speaking countries; these will provide you with a brief background of the countries, and give you some insight into just how diverse the Spanish speaking world is. In this section, you will also be exposed to grammar and vocabulary that you will strive to understand from context as there will be words, phrases and structures that you will not yet have mastered. In some cases, translations are provided, in others, you will be working from the context to understand the passage.
  5. Actividades : This section has important assignments that give you the opportunity to synthesize the entire lesson and to practice all that you have learned. Your instructor may use many of these activities to promote conversation and practice in the weekly live sessions.
  6. Evaluación : In this section you will find a lesson test, based on the vocabulary, grammar and cultural topics. These tests are quite similar in structure and content to the exercises and assignments that are in each lesson.
  7. Material complementario : This section is optional. While some of the extra vocabulary words may appear on occasion in exercises, the materials here will not be included in tests (unless your own instructor specifies otherwise). There are extra vocabulary lists to add on to what you have already learned, web resources that provide links to videos and texts that supplement the lesson. This section is meant to give you some additional resources but is not mandatory.

System requirements

OLI system requirements, regardless of course:

  • internet access
  • an operating system that supports the latest browser update
  • the latest browser update (Chrome recommended; Firefox, Safari supported; Edge and Internet Explorer are supported but not recommended)
  • pop-ups enabled
  • cookies enabled

Some courses include exercises with exceptions to these requirements, such as technology that cannot be used on mobile devices.

This course’s system requirements:

  • Videoconferencing software
OLI Website:
New look and
New student registration process

OLI’s website has undergone a refresh, and so has the student registration process. Watch the video to see how easily students can register with a Course Key.

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