The Rutgers Graduate Program in Spanish offers a unique PhD option in Bilingualism and Second Language Acquisition (SLA).  The program is aimed at students of Spanish linguistics with an interest in acquiring a strong background in the cognitive foundations of language and research methodology and a desire to apply this new-found knowledge to real-world situations where Spanish is in contact with other languages. Student research will focus on linguistic, cognitive, and/or neurological development of bilingual children, bilingual acquisition of language(s), bilingualism as a political phenomenon, and bilingual education. Students will be expected to complete field research in an area related to bilingualism, language acquisition, or language planning.


Ph.D. General Information for Bilingualism/SLA

Beginning with Fall 2024 students entering their PhD graduate program that semester, at the conclusion of a full-time PhD student’s one-year term of appointment as a TA or GA, or following the conclusion of such student’s one-year fellowship, the University shall offer the fulltime PhD student support through the completion of the fifth year of the student's doctoral program provided the student is making adequate academic progress in their program through TAships, GAships or University-sponsored fellowships.  Health insurance and other benefits are provided. In addition, we offer all Ph.D. students funds for research and conferences.

A limited number of summer teaching positions are available, paid at the official summer school rate. The department runs study abroad programs in Cuzco, Peru, and Salamanca, Spain in the summer and doctoral students are eligible to apply as program assistants. Study abroad assistants are paid a salary as well as all travel expenses.

Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificates
Many of our students pursue a graduate certificate in another field via elective courses. Students most frequently opt for certificates in Women and Gender Studies, Cinema Studies, Africana Studies, Cognitive Psychology, Environmental Studies, and World Language Teaching.

Graduate Program Consortium
Rutgers participates in a regional consortium of graduate programs at other universities. These programs are found at Princeton, NYU, Columbia, Fordham, and the CUNY Graduate Center. Students may take elective courses at these universities, with permission.


Education and Training

Students in the Graduate Program in Spanish (option in Bilingualism and SLA) will be required to complete a minimum of 72 credits towards their Ph.D., including 24 research credits.  Students may transfer up to 12 credits taken at the graduate level at another institution, subject to the approval of the Graduate Director.

Course requirements:

Students must complete all core courses as listed below.  The remaining courses will be chosen in consultation with the graduate linguistics faculty from among offerings in Spanish linguistics and other departments (e.g., Graduate School of Education [GSE], Linguistics, Psychology, Anthropology).


Language Requirement

PhD students must demonstrate the ability to conduct and interpret research in one language other than Spanish or English.  The language will be chosen in consultation with the student's adviser, committee and Graduate Director.  This requirement must be completed before taking the qualifying exams.  Normally candidates can satisfy this requirement by conducting and/or analyzing data guided in the target language, a language that has been agreed upon.



1) Qualifying Paper (QP) for the Ph.D.

Students are required to write a QP for the Ph.D. in an area that is different from that of the Ph.D. dissertation.  This paper, to be defended after passing 27 credits of course work, should present the results of original field research completed under the supervision of a member of the graduate faculty.  The qualifying paper must be defended before a committee formed by the advisor and two faculty members appointed by the Graduate Director in consultation with the graduate linguistics faculty.  The committee will assign one of two grades: Pass or Fail.

Students will be required to:

  • Identify a chairperson, who must approve the topic, by September 1 of the second year of matriculation.
  • Form a committee and submit an abstract to this committee, by December 15 of the second year of matriculation.
  • Defend the paper before this committee and obtain a Pass by June 1 of the second year of matriculation.

Upon obtaining a Pass on the Ph.D. QP, students must file the appropriate paper work with the Graduate School for Advancement to Candidacy. The Graduate School requires Advancement to be completed at least two semesters prior to the Dissertation defense.

2) Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation

Students are required to write a dissertation, which must be defended before a committee, which will assign one of two grades, Pass or Fail. A Dissertation Committee is comprised of four members: the Dissertation Director who serves as the Committee Chair, at least one member of the Graduate Faculty of Spanish, and two other members, one of whom must be from outside the Graduate Faculty of Spanish.  The following are the steps involved: 

  • Form a committee of three members, at least two of them from the Spanish Graduate Program by September 30 of the third year of matriculation.
  • Defend the dissertation proposal before this committee and obtain a Pass on it by the end of Fall semester of the third year of matriculation.
  • Add an external committee member by the end of Spring of the third year of matriculation.  The appointment must meet the approval of the Graduate Program Director and the chair of the Dissertation Committee.
  • Defend the dissertation before the committee (the external member need not be present), and obtain a Pass (from all four members), by the end of Spring of the fourth year of matriculation.


List of possible courses

Core courses - Spanish

  • Methodology of Teaching (501)
  • Introduction to the Study of Bilingualism and Second Language Acquisition (580)
  • Research methods (581)
  • Linguistic Theories of Bilingualism (582)
  • Second Language Acquisition (583)
  • Spanish Syntax (584, or Syntax I in the Linguistics Dept.)
  • Spanish Phonology (585)
  • The Spanish Language in Social Contexts (586)
  • Quantitative Research Methods ("Statistics for Linguistics", GSE 511 or equivalent course)

Other suggested courses - Spanish

  • History of the Spanish Language (511)
  • Theory and Practice of Translation (563)
  • Seminar: Topics in Hispanic Linguistics - Bilingual Assessment, SLA, Bilingual Education and Language Planning, Spanish in the US (588, 589)
  • Independent Study in Spanish (599)
  • Research in Spanish (701-702)

Other suggested courses - Linguistics

  • Phonology I (520)
  • Semantics I (530)
  • Syntax I (510)
  • Formal Methods for Linguistics (610)
  • Field Methods for Linguistics (631)

Other suggested courses - Education (GSE)

  • Bilingual-Bicultural Education (253:522)
  • Cognition and Language: Birth to Five (290:522)
  • Topics in Language Education (253:527)
  • Cognitive Development (290:503)
  • Applied Multivariate Analysis (291:641)

Other suggested courses - Psychology

  • Neurolinguistics (830:513)
  • Language Development (830:550)
  • Psycholinguistics (830:602)
  • Seminar: Cognition (830:638)

Other suggested courses - Philosophy

  • Seminar in Philosophy of Language (730:570)
  • Seminar in Philosophy of Mind (730:575)

Other suggested courses - Anthropology

  • Language Development (070:513)
  • Language as Social Action (070:514)


Bilingualism and Second Language Acquisition- Learning Goals and Assessment

For more information about the Rutgers University, Bilingualism and Second Language Acquisition Program, click here.