Below is a guest post from one of this month’s sponsors– Cassandra of Gee, Cassandra!
Working in any school means encountering colorful language—from both sides of the teacher’s desk. When I first arrived in Madrid I was confused about different Spanish terms that floated around; for example, why was my co-teacher so obsessed with sniffing out “pork chops” in the classroom?
In theory, auxiliaries are supposed to speak only English in the school. However, students will still chatter in Spanish at breakneck speed, co-teachers may ask for help translating a common classroom phrase, and, let’s face it, you hope to increase your Spanish horizons, as well! There are dozens of new expressions I’ve learned during my time in the classroom; read on to get a grip on common terms you’ll encounter in a Spanish school.
Fichas – These are class rosters, condensed into one page with thumbnails of each student. Pro tip: request fichas of your classes at the beginning of the year so that you can immediately begin matching names and faces.
Puente –What we call a “long weekend,” the Spanish refer to as a puente. When a holiday spans from Saturday and Sunday to the previous Friday or following Monday or (or both, you lucky duck!) you get, quite literally, a bridge.
Pasar lista – At first glance, it seems that this expression means “to be smart enough.” The real meaning? To call roll.
Chavales –Meaning “kids” or “youngsters,” this is the word that the staff will use to refer to students. It can be endearing or not, depending on the context.
Estar chupado – When taking an easy exam, student will say Está chupado!” This is the Spanish equivalent of “This is a piece of cake!”
Chuleta – In Spain, a cheat sheet literally means a “pork chop.” Expect to hear this one a lot, especially if you work in a high school.
Cachondeo – When teacher notices that the class isn’t paying attention to the lesson, he/she may yell Menos cachondeo! to quell the noise level. In English, this is along the lines of “Stop goofing off!”
Claustros – These are official meeting that teachers MUST attend. As they can stretch into the evening, their imminent arrival will be accompanied by lots of grumbling.
Tener mucho morro – An irreverent or cheeky student is said to have mucho morro (literally, a “long snout”). Expect to hear Tiene mucho morro! (He/She’s got some nerve!!) when a student talks back. Extra-flippant actions are met with Tiene un morro que se lo pisa.
Pesado – Literally meaning “heavy,” you will hear this to refer to situations or people which are downright obnoxious. For example, you might hear a student exclaim Qué pesado eres! to a classmate that just won’t be quiet.
Chungo/chunga– Meaning “problematic” or “difficult,” this description can be applied to everything from ornery students to tricky test questions to a bad situation at home.
Piojos – I sincerely hope you never hear this word in your school. If you do, hope the lice don’t find you.
Dar mucha guerra – Teachers use this expression for ornery students who are problematic and cause trouble–literally, “they give war” (i.e. Este chaval siempre da mucha guerra means “This kid is a terror!” or “This student is a pain in the neck!”)
Echar una bronca – When a teacher tells someone off, they Echar una bronca. Another similar verb is regañar, but I almost always hear the former, more colloquial expression.
Las opos – Oposiciones referto adifficult test that, if passed, allows teachers to attain the covetedstatus of funcionario (civil servant). Professionals of all stripes invest a lot of time to study for these exams, and many of my co-teachers say that studying for las opos is a full-time job in itself. Needless to say, this topic comes up a lot. If you want to show support and interest, you can ask your co-teachers, ¿Qué tal la llevas? to inquire into how their exam prep is going.
This is just the beginning of Spanish expressions you’ll hear in your schools! Fellow auxiliaries, what other terms would you include on this list?
Cassandra Gambill blames Rick Steves reruns for instilling the urge to travel before she could even drive. Madrid has been home for four years, and she shares the tiny details of life abroad via photos, odes, and the occasional pun. Language, humor, wine, and picnics are her cup of tea. You can find this and more on her blog, www.geecassandra.com and twitter, @geecassandra.