Is difficult French vocabulary totally schooling you?
Don’t feel bad. You’re not the only one!
When you first start learning a language, the sheer quantity of new vocabulary words is overwhelming. Where do you begin?
Well, where else? At school!
School and education is one of the most common talking points for French learners. Whether you’re navigating a new French class, preparing for the speaking portion of a test like the GSCE or making friends with French-speaking students, it’s important to know lots of school vocabulary.
That’s exactly what we’ll give you in this post, with more than 100 words for the people, places and things you’ll encounter at school.
When Would You Talk About School in French?
Seeking Help with Homework
Are you studying French at the high school or college level?
Maybe you’re even enrolled in a French-speaking school!
When you’re in school, you may need help with completing your assignments or clarifying class expectations. Unless you’ve got a French teacher who abides classroom discussion and questions in English (you’d be a rare case), you’ll need vocabulary for assignments, class materials and more.
For example, you might need to say, Tu pourrais m’aider avec mes devoirs? (Could you help me with my homework?) or Je te retrouverai dans la salle de classe pour réviser les notes (I’ll meet you in the classroom to review the notes).
There are numerous study abroad opportunities out there for any aspiring francophone student. You can even work and earn money while studying French!
Do you want to go to France? Another European country? Canada? Africa?
If you decide to take the plunge and study abroad in a French-speaking country, you’ll undoubtedly talk about your schooling a lot. In fact, education will probably be your most frequently discussed topic. You can’t go to school without talking about it every day!
For instance, if you live with a host family during your stay as many study abroad students do, they’ll ask you about school frequently. Talking with your host family is always a good way to practice the language, so it’s best to brush up on your school vocabulary beforehand.
Making Small Talk
Questions from your host family is just one of the situations that’ll require you to engage in small talk while learning French.
Small talk is an important part of studying a language. Before you become proficient and learn to discuss topics such as literature, politics or religion, you cover a lot of superficial topics. Over and over again. This means talking about family, friends and, yes, school.
If you want to go over some common question-and-answer scenarios about school, check out the BBC review for school-related conversations. The BBC also offers reviews for how to write about school in French!
You can also power up your natural French conversation skills with FluentU. FluentU provides authentic French videos that’ve been transformed into personalized lessons, with interactive captions, flashcards, quizzes, full transcripts and more.
You’ll hear how native French speakers use school vocabulary naturally—like in this news clip about the stressful exam French high school students need to take to graduate, or this funny French YouTuber’s take on American high schools. And there’s tons more on many different subjects—you can check out the full video library for free with a FluentU trial.
Allons à l’école! Your Guide to Talking About School in French
If this list is a little overwhelming, hop on over to Quizlet and create flashcards to memorize all these terms!
People at School
Here’s a list of the people you probably see every day at school.
If you don’t see them, you at least gossip about them.
Wait, is that just me? You didn’t gossip about the mean vice principal or the hot history teacher at your high school? Oh… whoops.
le/la camarade de classe (classmate)
le professeur (teacher/professor)
le proviseur/le chef d’établissement (principal or headmaster)
le proviseur adjoint (vice principal)
Levels of Schooling
There are multiple places where you or someone you know may be studying. Don’t just memorize the vocabulary for your level and establishment and ignore the rest. You never know when you’ll have to ask a colleague about their child who’s in preschool or reminisce about a time you were in middle school.
l’école public (public school)
l’école privée (private school)
l’école de langue (language school)
l’école maternelle (preschool)
l’école primaire (primary school)
le collège (middle school)
le lycée (high school)
l’université/la fac (college)
L’université is the official term for “college,” but many French people casually refer to college as la fac.
Je suis à la fac cette année. (I am in college this year.)
l’école supérieure de troisième cycle (graduate school)
le doctorat (doctorate degree)
la faculté de médecine (medical school)
la faculté de droit (law school)
Je vais au/à la … (I go to …)
Je vais au lycée. (I go to high school.)
Je vais à la fac de médecine. (I go to med school.)
Each school grade has its official name. However, for grades one through five, I also included the shortened, informal names, which are the terms most French people use.
Plus, they’re much easier to remember!
le cours préparatoire or CP (first grade)
le cours élémentaire 1re année or CE1 (second grade)
le cours élémentaire 2e année or CE2 (third grade)
le cours moyen 1re année or CM1 (fourth grade)
le cours moyen 2e année or CM2 (fifth grade)
la sixième (sixth grade)
la cinquième (seventh grade)
la quatrième (eighth grade)
la troisième (ninth grade)
la seconde (10th grade)
la première (11th grade)
la terminale (12th grade)
la première année d’université (first year of college)
la seconde année d’université (second year of college)
la troisième année d’université (third year of college)
la quatrième année d’université (fourth year of college)
être en (to be in [grade])
Mon fils s’appelle Daniel. Il est en CM1. (My son’s name is Daniel. He is in fourth grade.)
Je suis en première année à l’université. (I am in my first year of college.)
Depending on the level of your studies, there are countless subjects that could apply to your day-to-day life. Here are some of the most common subjects.
Side note: While each subject is either masculine or feminine, you don’t use le/la (the) with avoir (have), as in “I have chemistry.” You’ll see more on that at the bottom of this list of course titles.
le français (French)
le latin (Latin)
les maths (Math)
les sciences (Science)
l’éducation physique (PE)
la géographie (Geography)
la biologie (Biology)
la physique (Physics)
la chimie (Chemistry)
la géométrie (Geometry)
le calcul (Calculus)
les arts plastiques (Art)
la musique (Music)
le théâtre (Theater)
la chorale (Choir)
la littérature (Literature)
l’écriture créative (Creative writing)
la médecine (Medicine)
le droit (Law)
J’ai … maintenant. (I have… now.)
Je dois partir! J’ai chimie maintenant. (I have to leave! I have chemistry now.)
J’ai espagnol à 9h. (I have Spanish at 9 a.m.)
Je suis un cours de… (I am taking a course in… )
Je suis un course d‘écriture créative cette année. (I am taking a creative writing course this year.)
Note that the verb used here is suivre (literally, “to follow”), not être (to be).
J’aime… (I like… )
J’aime le théâtre. C’est mon cours préféré! (I like theater. It is my favorite class!)
Je n’aime pas (I don’t like … )
Je n’aime pas la géographie. C’est barbant! (I don’t like geography. It’s boring!)
Rooms in a School Building
la salle de classe (classroom)
le bureau (office)
le bureau du prioviseur (principal’s office)
l’infirmerie (nurse’s office)
le gymnase (gym)
la cafétéria/la cantine (school cafeteria)
le resto-U (university cafeteria)
la résidence universitaire (dormitory)
le laboratoire/le labo (laboratory)
l’amphithéâtre/l’amphi (lecture hall)
le cahier/ le carnet (notebook)
le manuel (textbook)
le classeur (binder/folder)
le stylo (pen)
le crayon (pencil)
la calculatrice (calculator)
le portable (laptop)
le sac à dos (backpack)
le surligneur (highlighter)
la gomme (eraser)
la craie (chalk)
le marqueur (felt tip marker)
l’éponge (eraser for the chalkboard or whiteboard)
la colle (glue)
les crayons de couleur (colored pencils)
les crayons gras (crayons)
la règle (ruler)
les fiches (index cards)
la gamelle (lunchbox)
le papier (paper)
le papier millimétré (graph paper)
le correcteur fluide (white-out)
les ciseaux (scissors)
le devoir (assignment/paper)
les devoirs (homework)
Yes, a specific assignment and homework in general (which may include multiple assignments) are differentiated simply by making the word plural. Languages are weird, aren’t they?
l’attestation de DELF/DALF (DELF/DALF certification)
If you study abroad or study at a language school, you might try to earn your DELF or DALF certification.
DELF stands for Diplôme d’études en langue française, or “Diploma in French Studies.” DALF stands for Diplôme approfondi de langue française, or “Diploma in Advanced French.”
le discours (speech)
le diplôme (degree)
J’ai un diplôme en… (I have a degree in…)
J’ai un diplôme en pédagogie de langue française. (I have a degree in French education.)
à rendre… (due)
Mes devoirs de sciences sont à rendre demain. (My science homework is due tomorrow.)
Désolé, je ne peux pas sortir ce soir. J’ai un long devoir à rendre cette semaine. (Sorry, I can’t go out tonight. I have a long paper due this week.)
Now that you know these French terms and basic phrases related to education, you can show off to your teachers and classmates!
Don’t get schooled by tricky vocabulary. Show it who’s in charge!
And One More Thing Before the Bell Rings…
If you want to learn French vocabulary the way that it’s used in real life, then you won’t want to miss FluentU. FluentU takes music videos, commercials, news, and inspiring talks and turns them into French learning experiences.
As we mentioned earlier, FluentU brings French videos within reach with interactive subtitles. Tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
Tap on the word “suit,” for example, and this is what appears:
And FluentU’s “learn mode” lets you learn all the vocabulary in any video with questions. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. And it uses that vocabulary to recommend examples and videos so that you get a 100% personalized experience. You can start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
Laura Grace Tarpley is an editor at FluentU. She loves tinkering with crossword puzzles and playing with her puppy, Tuna. Follow her on Twitter @lgtarpley.
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