Spanish for Science and Engineering

You are here

Course Information
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 

Completion of IES Abroad’s SP 351 Independent Abroad I outcomes from the MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication, determined by placement test.


In Science, English is undoubtedly the lingua franca for communications. However, more and more scientists are studying Spanish as a foreign language.  It is one of the measures recommended by the Instituto Cervantes (El español, lengua para la ciencia y tecnología, 2009) for the more than 4.000 foreign college students studying Sciences in Spain. Following IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication, this course will prepare students ‘(…) to function in a professional setting, and to undertake further personal or professional projects in the host culture.’ (MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication, 99) 

This course is a language course, taught by Spanish language faculty. In a Spanish for Specific purposes course, you will be learning Spanish through general Science and Engineering texts, and prepare presentations and texts in your field, with an emphasis of connecting ideas, learning specific vocabulary and increasing oral and written proficiency.

Attendance policy: 

Attendance is mandatory for all IES Abroad classes, including course-related excursions. Any exams, tests, presentations, or other work missed due to student absences can only be rescheduled in cases of documented medical or family emergencies. If a student misses more than two classes in any course half a letter grade will be deducted from the final grade for every additional absence. Seven absences in any course will result in a failing grade.

Learning outcomes: 
  1. An important part about any engineering job or situation is communication. In this course students will improve oral and written skills, with more accuracy and precision, and thus, feel more confidence to communicate ideas in any general or technical context.
  2. Students will become familiar with different types of texts and genres, both general and more scientific types, and being able to recognize and produce them, organizing them clearly, using appropriate verbal tenses and moods.
  3. Learn general scientific vocabulary and be able to produce and understand technical and semi-technical terms.
  4. Analyze texts and ideas expressed by others, and be able to react to them, expressing opinions and discussing them.
  5. The student will be able to make clear presentations (oral and written)
  6. Will have acquired some knowledge about Science and Engineering in Spain: companies, research centers, important scientists in the history of Spain, infrastructures, products and projects.
  7. Will develop learning strategies to work with texts, vocabulary and in communication.
Method of presentation: 

This course is going to be taken by students of very different Engineering majors, whose texts and genres may be very different from one another, so this course will have a task-based approach, as the IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication suggests.

Tasks will try to be general, real and motivating, that students can adapt to their area of studies. For example: a role-play in a technical helpline, filling out a form to request a patient, presenting a graphic to the class, designing an invention. (Tasks can be adapted by students to either computer engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, etc.) Tasks will be focused on real situations and with the ultimate goal of improving oral and written communicative abilities and strategies. 

In addition to tasks in class, there will be two projects for this course.

  1. Preparation of a poster for a congress, fair, presentation. The student will prepare a poster (A4 paper, at least 500 words, visual, summarized and logically organized) as if he/she was presenting it for a congress. Students can choose the topic, for example: A Spanish Science/Technology company, a Spanish research center, an infrastructure, scientist...
  2. Oral presentation: Describe a design made by the student. You can choose:  a building, a factory or manufacturing process, gym equipment, help for disabled people, office equipment, robot... and being creative, describe its appearance, costs, positive aspects, problems it solves, manufacturing, energy or use. Students must submit a written summary, which will be corrected by the instructor, and afterwards give a 10 minute presentation. Students will be given a rubric, based on language proficiency, connection of ideas, grammatical and lexical competence. There will be points for creativity, but this project will only be evaluated in terms of Spanish language abilities, not for feasibility in scientific design.


  • Class: Correction of homework assigned in the previous session: discussion, explanation, doubts.

    • Discussion of topic(s) to be introduced
    • Reading and listening exercises
    • Explanation (inductive) of grammar
    • Practice of the forms- grammar workbook
    • Discussion, speaking, writing (task)
  • Home: homework (exercises to practice of grammar forms and vocabulary, written assignments, bigger projects at least twice during the semester).
  • Moodle: A very useful tool for sharing videos and links, to create forums and wikis to share what students have discovered about science in Spain. An important part of the course would have students gather information about their area of studies that can be shared on Moodle and discussed with students in the class from other Engineering majors. They can ask questions and react to data.
Field study: 
An important aspect of teaching foreign languages abroad is teaching culture, as IES Abroad MAP explains. As developed in the weekly planning, some of the cultural contents and field studies will deal with Spanish contribution in science, such as:
  • Spanish inventions and scientists: Ramón y Cajal, Juan de la Cierva (gyroplane), Isaac Peral (submarine)
  • Spanish technological companies: Indra, Iberdrola, ACS, Unión Fenosa, Gas Natural, Ferrovial
  • Spanish infrastructures: High speed train (AVE), metro, reservoirs of water during Franco’s regime, bridges...
  • Data about Spain: research, numbers, geography...
  • Field studies may include group visits, or independent visits by students to museums in Madrid related to their Engineering major.
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Class and moodle participation (15%): Being on time and active in class, participating in tasks and activities in groups/pairs. Using Moodle regularly, replying to forums, posting in glossaries. Having daily homework exercises from the workbook, having class prepared and texts read.
  • Homework and written assignments (20%): Some of these written assignments will be through Moodle. In this case, grades for these assignments will count into this 20% of the final grade and not in Moodle participation (above, which would be for forums and glossaries). This grade is based on regular short texts for the students to write and upload or give to the teacher, effort in them, having papers on time and quality of daily homework exercises when asked to correct aloud in class.
  • Verbs quiz (5%)
  • Poster before midterm (5 %)
  • Midterm exam (20%)
  • Final exam (20%): On contents covered in class (specific contents tested in the midterm exam will not be included).
  • Paper (5%): Either a summary for oral presentation, or watching a program of REDES of your choice (Popular TV show about science, shown from 1996 to 2014 in TVE) and writing a summary.
  • Final oral presentation (10%): Groups of students will be organized and the topics will be discussed. The instructor, along with the students, will establish the calendar for the presentation.




Week 1

  1. Functional: Introducing yourself. Describing daily routine. Asking questions. Ordering events. Agreeing and disagreeing (también/ tampoco…). Expressing likes and dislikes, goals, recommendations. Expressing the development of an action
  2. Grammar: Review of all irregular present tense. Spelling: letters. Verbs with I.O. and agreement with subject (gustar, interesar, costar –me cuesta-…), contrast with reflexive verbs. Ser/estar. Labels. Estar + gerundio. Types of interrogative sentences
  3. Vocabulary: Types of Engineering. Classes and contents. Characters for Internet: @, _, . Your backpack: what you need to take to class: Ruler, calculator, compass... Appliances. Scientific research
  4. Cultural/Science: Spanish educational system. Comparing the Spanish and American Educational System. Spanish Engineers abroad. Spanish companies: INDRA. 4G life.

Explaining daily routine and characteristics of jobs in different Engineering types

Explaining why you study Engineering

Introducing yourself and sharing information 

Comparing daily life appliances and things they have in common

Describing your usage of smartphone/ Internet.

Week 2
  1. Functional: Comparing polluting substances (tan como, más que, menos que…). Expressing facts and consequences: causes and efffects (cuantos más envases…). Giving opinions (para mí... )… and making suggestions or proposing solutions (¿por qué no…?).Reading numbers and expressing quantities and percentages. Reading graphics. Reading sentences with abbreviations from the International system of units. Locating places. Giving spatial directions.
  2. Grammar: Pronouns: direct and indirect object. Comparison with nouns and adjectives. Future: Life in 2044. Si… presente, future. Ir a + infinitive. Agreeing and disagreeing (yo también, yo tampoco, a mí también, tampoco, sí, no…). Gender, number agreement. Numerals: cardinal and ordinal. Estar to locate. Contrast ser/estar/haber. Prepositions. Usage of capital letters. Pronouns for direct and indirect object.
  3. Vocabulary: Types of energy: renewable and non renewable. Sustainable development and cities of the future. Surface, Temperature, Volume and Capacity. Each student will prepare a vocabulary list of their field if needed for the graphic; graphics, geometrical shapes, proportion, degree, numerals, fractions, research international system of units in Spanish and abbreviations.
  4. Cultural/Science: Residues. Recycling and separating of residues in Spain. Energy efficient label and database by IDAE (Instituto de diversificación y ahorro de energía). Spain in numbers. Spanish geography, transportation and distance among cities. Spaniards and science. Research and universities in Spain (I+D+i): Choose and look for information of a research center

Answering to a test: Do you consider yourself an ecologist? Measuring your ‘ecological footprint’ 

Making a mental map of a chosen renewable energy. 

Comparing: two bridges (civil), two trains (industrial/mechanical), two apps (computer science), MAC and Windows.

Discussing curious data and deciding whether it is true or false

Reading graphics and presenting results to the rest of the class

Comparing distances among Spanish cities

Preparing a presentation of a graphic of your choice.

Week 3
  1. Functional: Giving advice and expressing opinions, pros and cons. Talking about past experiences. Predicting changes: jobs of the future. Describing jobs and skills. Asking questions for clarification.
  2. Grammar: Future simple. Conditional. Hay que/ tener que + infinitive. Pretérito perfecto: regular and irregular participles. Ya/ Todavía no/ Ya no/ Todavía.
  3. Vocabulary: Supplies, work skills and research.
  4. Cultural/Science: Spanish Engineering companies. Spanish young enterpreneurs. Laboral sectors: Primary, secondary, tertiary. Industry in Spain: Bilbao. Production of olive oil and wine. Jobs of the future.

Assessing résumés and choosing the most qualified candidate for an internship in your field

Discussing about technology and manual jobs which may disappear because of technology

Test: are you prepared to travel to the space?

Classifying, from a list, advances which have already or have not yet taken place in science

Week 4
  1. Functional: Writing a résumé and a cover letter. Narrating biographies. Giving definitions. Answering questions in a job interview. Arranging a patent.
  2. Grammar: Pretérito indefinido: regular and irregular. Contrast pretérito perfecto/ pretérito indefinido.
  3. Vocabulary: Space exploration and work.
  4. Cultural/Science: Luis Rojas. Severo Ochoa. Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Isaac Peral. Juan de la Cierva. Pedro Duque. ;

Narrating the biography of a famous scientist in history

Writing a cover letter

Discussing if cover letters are or are not appropriate and why

Role-play about a job interview for an Engineering position

Video-conference: Pronunciation

Week 5
  1. Functional: Narrating habits in the past and in the present. Describing characteristics of an invention: shapes, materials.
  2. Grammar: Pretérito imperfecto. Contrast pretérito imperfecto vs present. Solía + infinitive.
  3. Vocabulary: Parts of a car / driving. Measuring speed, weight. Word formation: prefixes and suffixes.
  4. Cultural/Science: El 600 - Spanish car. Visit to Chamberí metro station. Madrid metro in the 1920s.

Then and now: Describing how has life changed after important inventions: Debate.

Outline the evolution of technological appliances (computers, cell phones, tv)

Imperfect in reported speech: Narrating a technical report

Week 6
  1. Functional: Writing formal and informal letters Narrating events: what happened, in which circumstances, and how we felt.
  2. Grammar: Contrast past tenses: Imperfecto/Indefinido; Contrast: pretérito pluscuamperfecto and indefinido. Discourse markers to sequence actions and narrate stories.
  3. Vocabulary: Materials, actions (research), inventions I.
  4. Cultural/Science: AVE: high speed train. AVE: Medina- La Meca. Project. Airplanes and safety: Accident of Spanair flight in 2008.

Describing discoveries by chance (i.e. penicillin) and circumstances in which those took place.

Reporting incidents: narrating the circumstances and what happened.

Inventions: what was the original purpose and how they became indispensable objects of everyday life.

This Week: Quiz

Week 7

Review and Midterm

Week 8
  1. Functional: Answering to formal and informal phone calls. Being able to respond and help customers in a technical helpline.
  2. Grammar: Imperative affirmative and negative. Contrast para/por & ser/estar 1. Discourse markers. Reported speech I. Orthography: tilde.
  3. Vocabulary: Computers and new technologies. Assessing a car. Products, tools (taladro, destornillador…): selecting items for a toolbox.
  4. Cultural/Science: Tuenti: Spanish social network Netiquette. Instructions for safe passwords.

Making a list of instructions and assessing a car, system , to avoid workplace accidents, or to make the most of your computer.

Giving instructions: Helping someone fix a problem in their home. Fixing a computer that does not work.

Ordering in a logical way, a list of instructions for appliances.

This Week: Poster

Week 9
  1. Funtional: Giving opinions about problems and issues (no es justo que… no me parece que…). Expressing need/ obligations.
  2. Grammar: Adjectives before and after the noun: change of meaning. Distinguish or describe? Present subjunctive expressing desires and opinions and feelings (me da miedo que vean mis datos…). Conditional II.
  3. Vocabulary: Houses and isolating materials. Conductors, voltage. Temperature. Renewable energy: hidráulica, eólica, solar, geotérmica.
  4. Cultural/Science: Hybrid buses in Madrid. Spanish national parks. Architecture: building of Guggenheim museum.

Discussing the issue of Internet safety and risks.

Read and summarize different texts.

Debating about SPAM messages and inappropriate messages in social networks

Week 10
  1. Functional: Contrasting information and presenting conclusion about the state of the environment and reacting to data.
  2. Grammar: Present subjunctive in temporal and concessive clauses: Contrast subjunctive and indicative
  3. Vocabulary: Consequences of climate change and meteorological phenomena.
  4. Cultural/Science: Environmental policies in Spain. Spanish national parks.

Assessing environmental problems and solutions.

Making conclusions and expressing causes: Climate change

Week 11
  1. Functional: Describing characteristics of a product: aim, materials, appearance, working. Designing inventions.
  2. Grammar: Present subjunctive in relative clauses. Contrast subjunctive and indicative: identify or not entities. Relative sentences with prepositions. Passive voice and passive ‘SE’.
  3. Vocabulary: Shapes, geometrical figures, materials.
  4. Cultural/Science: Filling out a form to request a patent. Ley de propiedad Intelectual. Google Glass. Spanish inventions Fabricando: Made in Spain: La fregona.

Project: Designing an object or a Chidongu (useless inventions)

Filling out a form to request a patent

Describing objects and having classmates guess which object they are describing

This week: Paper

Week 12
  1. Functional: Debate: Laboral risks and hazards. Safety precautions: report. Expressing consumer complaints. Responding to objections. Grammar: Present subjunctive with hypotheses and assumptions. Imperfect subjunctive. Conditional, and types of conditional clauses in the present and in the past. Vocabulary: Hazards. Workplace risk prevention. Accidents and symptoms. Culture/Science: OCU: Organización de consumidores y usuarios. Skyscrapers.
Report about a labor accident or an issue in a product or service and summarize how it could have been avoided.
Week 13 Oral Presentations
Week 14

Oral Presentation

Spanish Music Session


Final Exam


Required readings: 

In addition to those materials uploaded or given to the student in a course reader, students will be asked to buy a grammar reference book.  

This will be the ‘workbook’. Cultural, lexical and functional contents will be presented in class, in order to practice the four skills with a task-based approach. Grammar will be presented inductively, and afterwards students will have exercises from the grammar reference, indicated in each unit as well as a resource for doubts or extra independent practice. This is a reference book, for a grammar review of all elementary and intermediate levels, where students can review contents that they have studied in the past (for example, review regular verbs in tenses they already know) and/or practice extra contents.

For this course several materials will be used:

  • Specifically created materials and texts focusing on technology and different Engineering areas, such as: INFRAESTRUCTURAS
  • Many videos from TV programmes such as: Fabricando or REDES  
  • Moodle: Each student will upload glossaries with vocabulary related to his/her area and activities and links will be shared