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Talking about teaching and learning

One of the place I stumble pretty badly when trying to have conversations in German is trying to talk about my job and my profession. I'm a professor, and I struggle with the names of different kinds of schools in both Germany and America (how do I tell someone I'm currently a professor at a small liberal arts college, but in the past I've worked in elementary schools too?). What are all the different words for "student" and "teacher" and what are the differences? Also different verbs for teaching and learning (how do I describe what I do in the classroom accurately? How does the word Unterricht work, actually? How could I say I teach twelve hours a week in the classroom, and I have three different classes?

Not so much I want answers to these specific questions right now in the forum (although that's welcome too), but if anyone knows a good page or book or other resource for this particular topic, I'd be grateful. Vielen Dank!

January 24, 2018



You might be safer talking about the age group you teach and explaining the nature of the institution rather than looking for direct translations. To be honest, I'm not sure it's even clear to another English speaker what you mean, as the American system uses terminology differently. For instance, I suspect we use the term professor much more narrowly than you do.

At risk of sounding frivolous, have you looked at Wikipedia in the two languages and had a good click around by way of a starting point? It's not well edited but it does have its uses.


Yes, thanks. I realize that in many cases I'll have to explain rather than rely on an exact equivalent word or phrase ("small liberal arts college" for example isn't going to have any direct translation). The wikipedia suggestion is good, and I do take advantage of flipping back and forth between the two languages there, but it can be difficult to find descriptions of typical activities there, in the way that we might talk about them in conversation.


The following sites may provide useful vocabulary to achieve your goal.

(English/German. Click and then go to page 48 of document. UK site)


(Another UK site. English only, however, it provides examples of vocabulary and sentences you may wish to incorporate into your dialogs.


(Same site as above, however, vocabulary is organized differently)


(I spent my career in language education after being trained as a linguist in the Army.)

Ich wünsch' Ihnen viel Glück!


Vielen Dank für die Links! Die hätte ich selbst nicht gefunden.

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