ITALIAN school VOCABULARY: expressions to talk about school

September is already here and, as everyone knows, school begins and students love it! To celebrete this happy (happy?) event, I’ve decided to provide you, in this video, with a series of expression to use in the school context, perfect for whatever kind of school you want to attend.

Expressions to be used in the School Context

Here’s a list of the essential italian expressions you need to know to talk about school:

  • Iscriversi/Immatricolarsi Mollare/abbandonare gli studi means joining an istitution or an organisation by registering one’s name and following the required formalities. The first enrollment of a student to a high school or a university is called immatricolazione. And the person who enrols there for the first time is called matricola (freshman).

  • Essere una matricola means being a student in the first year of high school or the first year of university.

  • Mollare/Abbandonare gli studi means interrupting studies without completing them.

  • Seguire le lezioni – L’orario delle materie means attending different classes following a pre-established timetable, which lists the various subjects you have to attend on different days of the week, hour by hour.

  • Assegnare i compiti (insegnante) – Svolgere/Fare i compiti (studente) happens when the teacher assings homework and tell the students what they have to do at home before the next lesson. They then have to follow those instructions, which means they have to do the homework.

  • Fare l’appello means calling several people by name, in a set order (mostly alphabetical), to make sure they are present.

  • Essere presente/assente: if the student answers with “Present!”, it means that he/she is in class. Otherwise, if he/she has stayed home for any reason, he/she is absent.

  • Essere bocciato/promosso: if speaking about a single exam, it means failing it. Not being promoted to the next class (usually because of too low grades) and having to repeat the year means instead flunking out. If, on the other hand, you successfully complete the year and are admitted to the next class, you have passed.

  • Essere rimandato: A student can fail one or more subjects (maximum 3) at the end of the year. This means that he/she is not repeating the year, but that there is no grade in those subjects, because he/she will have to take extra exams at the end of the summer, before school starts. If he/she passes those exams, he officially passes, otherwise, he has to repeat.

  • Prendere/Beccarsi una nota sul registro: the register log is the notebook in which the teachers write the “history” of the class. Only teachers can fill it out and they have to enter their signatures, the absences, the homework they assign, the work done during the lesson and the general data of the pupils, day by day. There, among other things, warning letters are written. A warning letter is a memo written by the teacher concerning misbehaviour by one or more students. Each warning letter “taken” by the student influences his or her final grade. If a student misbehaves frequently or does something very very serious, he or she may be suspended from school activities for up to 15 days.

  • Fare sega/fare filone/marinare la scuola/bigiare means not going to school for a day (or more) without your parents knowing it. It is a problem with the “giustifica” ( a document that the parents have to sign stating that they are aware that their child is absent from school, usually for health or personal reasons). It stops being a problem when you turn 18 years old and you can sing you own “giustifica”.

  • Andare alla lavagna means being called by the teacher and having to go to the blackboard to do some excercises that the teacher has assigned.

  • Fare il compito in classe means that the whole class, generally once a month, takes written test that helps the teacher cheacking the knowledge that the students have acquired in his subject

  • Sostenere un’interrogazione: “interrogazione” is an oral test that takes place once or twice a month for each individual student, during which the teacher asks the student several questions, and he/she has to answer them. No, it is not an interrogation (which is what takes place in a police station with an alleged criminal).

  • Fare scena muta means remaining silent, not speaking, not answering the questions asked.

  • Assegnare / Ricevere un voto means to give/receive a teacher’s judgment on the student’s performance, written or oral, in his/her subject.

  • Diplomarsi, laurearsi means to complete one’s studies at high school (one receives a diploma) or at university (one receives a degree).

  • Primo/secondo quadrimestre/semestre refers to the division of the school year into two parts. At school we talk about terms (4-month period), at university we talk about semesters (6-month period). At school you receive a report card at the end of each term. The report card is a document that the school issues to each student which contains the final grades that the student has received in the various subjects, obtained by averaging the various grades collected over the months. The report card of the first term is important but not decisive, it is only a reference point to understand what to concentrate on to avoid repeating the year at the end of the second term.

  • Fare il lecchino means behaving in an excessively servile way towards someone, in order to get into their good graces and benefit from them.

  • Essere un secchione means studying hard and consistently, without necessarily having any special skills or abilities.

  • Copiare durante un compito it means to copy the answers you don’t know by all means and from all possible sources.

  • Suggerire a un compagno means offering the answers to a classmate who, during an oral test, doesn’t know them.

  • Imparare a memoria means fixing concepts in one’s mind: it is fine for lists, but it is wrong for broader, discursive things. It means learning mechanically, without real, deep understanding, repeating word by word what is written in the book.

  • Un 10 per l’impegno means appreciating effort and commitment. However, you hardly ever hear this sentence at school. Even if you are praised for your effort (receiving a good grade), that grade will never be a 10, which is the maximum.

  • Buttarsi sui libri / Mettersi sotto means putting in a lot of effort to study. These expressions are often used when you have little time left before an exam or an oral text or at the end of the year and you study a lot because you don’t want to risk repeating the year.

If you want to become a real expert on Italian schools, be sure to check out our video about the Italian school system.