How about learning essential school vocabulary in French? After all, Summer holidays are over and it's time to go back to school. It may be the right moment to learn useful French vocabulary like école (school), université (university), la rentrée scolaire (school opening), or basics like saying teacher in French.
In this post, you will learn school vocabulary terms related to the education system, people, objects, school supplies, subjects, places, verbs about schooling as well as common phrases used in a French classroom context.
For your information, in the vocabulary lists, (f) refers to a feminine word while (m) is for masculine.
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What are the types of schools in the French education system?
The way schools are named in the French education system is of course different from the English. Here is the French to English translation of categories of schools in France.
la crèche : day nursery (UK), child care center(US)
l'école maternelle (f) : kindergarden
l'école primaire / le primaire : primary school
le collège : middle school or junior high
le lycée : high school
l'université : university or college
l'école supérieure : graduate school
How do you say teacher, principal, or student in French?
When talking about school, you might want to know how to say teacher in French or the words for classmate, student for instance. Here is a list of the people you can find in a French school.
Le professeur (m), la professeur (f), la professeure (f) : teacher
Le professeur principal : head teacher
L'enseignant (m), l'enseignante (f) : teacher
Le proviseur : principal for high school or secondary school
Le directeur : principal for primary school
Le surveillant : school supervisor
Le maître (m), la maîtresse (f) : kindergarten or primary teacher
L'instituteur (m), l'institutrice (f) : primary teacher
Les élèves (m, f) : pupils, students
Les écoliers (m), les écolières (f) : schoolboys, schoolgirls
Les collégiens (m), les collégiennes : middle school students
les lycéens (m), les lycéennes (f) : secondary school pupils or high school students
Les étudiants (m), les étudiantes (f) : students
Les camarades de classe (m,f) : classmates
Le bibliothécaire (f,m) : librarian
Take note that for the word professeur, the feminine can be professeur or professeure. Both are accepted.
How to name classroom objects in French?
In a classroom, just like in a house, it is common to find desks, chairs, whiteboard/blackboard, markers, or even chalk in traditional classes. But, how to say all these classroom objects in the French language? Let's have a look at this list of school items found inside a classroom and you will be able to describe easily a classroom in French.
Le bureau : desk
Les chaises (f) : chairs
Le tableau : the board
La corbeille à papier : paper dust bean
Les posters (m) : posters
La craie : chalk
L'éponge (f) : sponge
List of common school supplies or les fournitures scolaires in French
Les fournitures scolaires or School supplies/school stationery in English are very useful vocabulary especially if you are joining a French school or university. Here is a list of the most common school supplies in French with their translation.
un cartable : a schoolbag
un sac à dos : a backpack
une trousse : a pencil case
un livre : a book
un cahier : a notebook
un livre : a book
un stylo : a pen
un crayon : a pencil
un crayon de couleur : a coloured pencil, crayon
un taille-crayon : a sharpener
un feutre : a felt pen
une règle : a ruler
une gomme : an eraser
une équerre : a square
un compas : a compass
une calculatrice : calculator
un classeur : a folder
un rapporteur : a protractor
des ciseaux : cisors
un tube de colle : a glue stick
un ordinateur : a desktop computer
un ordinateur portable : a laptop
un manuel : a textbook
un marqueur : a marker
un surligneur : a highlighter
une ardoise : a slate
Common French verbs used in a classroom context
Below is a list of classic French verbs used in a classroom.
écouter : to listen
écrire : to write
lire : to read
calculer : to calculate
compter : to count
regarder : to look, to watch
répéter : to repeat
expliquer : to explain
étudier : to study
rendre ses devoirs : to turn in one's homework assignment
aller à : to go to or to attend
passer un examen : to take an exam
réussir à un examen : to pass an exam
Be aware of these English - French false friends : passer un examen and to pass an exam have different meanings.
How to talk about school subjects in French?
The word for School subjects in French is les matières scolaires. The subject learned will strongly depend on the type of school in which you are. For example, someone who is in primary school will have simple subjects like calculation while a secondary student might be having chemistry, sciences, ... The list of school subjects below is certainly not exhaustive but gives you an idea of the English school subjects' counterparts in French.
le français : French
l'anglais : English
l'espagnol : Spanish
les mathématiques (maths) : maths
la physique : Physic
la Chimie : chemistry
les sciences : science
l'histoire : History
La géographie : geography
l'Éducation Physique et sportive (EPS ) : PE
la musique : music
L'art : art
le théatre : drama
l'informatique : computer science
Common French phrases and sentences in a classroom context
In a classroom context, knowing how to ask questions and some common French phrases or sentences is a great asset as it will help you communicate better in French, to express clearly your worries and any possible need for clarification. Here is a list of the most often used ones.
Quelle est ta matière préférée? => What is your favorite school subject?
Comment sont les profs dans ton école? => How are the Teachers in your school?
Je ne sais pas. => I don't know
Je ne comprends pas. => I don't understand.
J'ai une question. => I have a question.
Vous avez compris ? =>Have you understood.
Oui, j'ai compris. => Yes, I understood.
Non, je n'ai pas compris. => No, I did not understand.
Vous pouvez répéter s'il vous plait? => Can you repeat please?
Comment on dit .... en français? => How do we say ... in French?
Ouvrez vos livres à la page ... => Open your books at page ....
Ouvrez vos cahiers. => Open your notebooks.
Places at school you should know
If you are are looking for names of places we can find in a school, this French vocabulary list will come handy.
la salle de classe : classroom
le bureau du proviseur/directeur ; the principal office
L'infirmerie : the school nurse station
le terrain de sport: sports ground
Le gymnase : gymnasium
La bibilothèque : library
la cantine : canteen
le resto-u ou restaurant universitaire : university refectory/canteen
la cour de récréation : playground
l'amphithéâtre : amphitheater
Les toilettes: toilets
Wow! Lots of vocabulary!!! I know, but I felt like it might be interesting to know more about school vocabulary in French in a detailed manner, especially when most students are going back to school.
I will be making some flashcards available soon to help you review.
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