Top five words with a different meaning in the UK

Dec 20, 2017 | Posted by Impact Teachers

Coming to teach in the UK? Touching down on the ground in January and hitting the classroom for your first adventure into the UK education system?  Well you will want to start on the right foot then.  Did you know that some words and phrases that are common in Canada, Australia and New Zealand do not hold the same meaning in the UK?  Do not fret help is here.  Read our top 5 words and phrases to be aware of so you can avoid those confused (and possibly shocked) faces when you start teaching.

Number 1: Grades

In Canada the term grades is used to describe the age range of the students in a class with Grade 1 being the first phase of primary education all the way up to Grade 12 which is the last grade of secondary education.  Not so in the UK!  The term grade is used but in the UK, it means the grade awarded to the student for their work i.e. Grade A, Grade B etc.  In the UK the term used is Year Group and each student will be in a year group that corresponds to their age.  Year 1 is the first year of primary school up to Year 11 which is the last year of secondary school before Advanced Level qualifications.  Fortunately that is as confusing as it gets and the grades correlate to the Year Group in in the UK.

Number 2: Pants

Embarrassing difference number 1.  In Canada, pants is a term used to describe trousers.  Saying, “you all have to wear black pants as part of your uniform” would not cause any looks of confusion or any complaints.  This is not the same in the UK where the term pants is synonymous for underwear and where the same request might cause some raised eyebrows and embarrassing conversations.

Number 3: Wear your what?

If you are teaching PE you might need to remind the students to bring their kit for their session including their runners. Hang on? What?  Runners are not a term commonly used in the UK so you might find a few students missing a key piece of kit on the day.  Swap runners for trainers and you will be safe in the knowledge your instruction is understood.

Number 4: Sandals, Jandals and other stories

As you are heading into the summer months and you have a mufti day (a dress down day here in the UK) students might want to pop on some flip-flops instead of their normal shoes.  The common term here in the UK is sandals or flip-flops! Jandals (as they say in New Zealand) is not a term used in the UK and you will most likely see those blank stares all round, similar to the ones you get when you ask a particularly tough math question.  Thongs (as they say in Australia) is used here but it has a very different meaning so will likely result in a case of the giggles.

Number 5: Math versus Maths

The great debate.  In Canada and the US the singular term math is commonly used.  Not the case in the UK!  If you’re heading over to teach in the UK you want to use the term Maths or Mathematics.  You can read more about why here!

Bonus Words:

We thought we’d throw a few more out there so you don’t get lost on arrival!

Toque – students won’t know what a toque is!  A bobble hat / beanie will go over well.

Dunny – Australian slang for a toilet.  If your students are allowed to go to the bathroom during lessons the word loo will be much better understood.

Subway – If you are working in London, please note that we do not use the term Subway!  Tube or Underground is how you will get around. Unless of course you are after a sandwich.

For more in our blog series read here!

Impact Teachers
Written by Impact Teachers
From 2005 to the present, I, along with my partners, led Impact through a period of growth unprecedented in the UK’s recruitment industry.