Thursday, September 03, 2015

Academic terminology can be complicated

Some of the academic terminology here trips me up. At universities in Mexico, they said things one way. Here in Spain they say them differently.

Fortunately a friend of mine here, Prof. Samuel Negredo, has created an extensive Spanish-English glossary of academic terms. Some of the basics for me have been:

  • "Students" in Mexico were "estudiantes" mainly, but here in Spain they are almost always referred to as "alumnos." 
  • What we would call "alumni" here are called "antiguos alumnos" (old students) or "graduados" (graduates).  However I have sometimes seen and heard people here use the Latin plural "alumni" to refer to their graduates.
  • Mexican professors often referred to their students as "chicos", or boys and girls. And they would even address the classes that way: "Buenos días, Chicos." I didn't feel right doing that. It seemed counterproductive when I wanted them to act as adults. So after asking around, I came up with an  equivalent of "Ladies and Gentlemen" -- "Damas y Caballeros." That's what I use here. I was told that "Señoras y Señores" sounded way too formal.
  • "Grado" doesn't mean grade here but rather "major". To say "I am a journalism major in the Communication Department," you would say, "Estoy en el grado de periodismo de la Facultad de Comunicación." Those who are doing a bilingual major, with half their courses in English, are in the "grado bilingüe."
  • A "grade" is una nota or una calificación.
  • "Facultad", by the way, doesn't mean "faculty." It means "academic department". When you want to refer to "the faculty" you say "el profesorado", and the student body isn't "el cuerpo de alumnos" but rather the "alumnado".
  • What we call a "course", as in "a math course," is called an "asignatura" here in Spain, but in Mexico it was called a "materia". All three words come from Latin and all refer to the same thing but have different roots. 
  • And "curso" here is not a course but an "academic year". So we are in the "curso 2015-2016".
  • Una "clase" here is a singular event. It refers to the class you taught yesterday or the class you are going to teach today. If we want to talk about the class of 2015, you say "generación" or "promoción" de 2015.

Flunk and pass

 If you "pass a course" you don't pasar, you "aprobar" la asignatura. It comes from the same Latin root as "approve." To fail is "reprobar", and someone who has failed is "un reprobado" (English "reprobate" comes from the same root but has a different meaning).

At Tec of Monterrey in Mexico, a "classroom" was a "sala" or if it was really big, a "salón". A classroom building was called "Las aulas 1" or 2 or 3, which was very confusing to me at first because here in Spain the big lecture halls are called "aulas". And the building that houses the aulas is called the "facultad" or faculty. Confusing, yes? I mean, confusing, no?

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