What would be the transposition to the US school/university system of the French expressions:

  • cours” (that is lecture, listening to the teacher)
  • travaux dirigés” (lit. directed works, students usually do exercises on a sheet of paper, and they might sometimes be asked to show their solution on the blackboard)
  • travaux pratiques” (lit. practical works, exercises in the lab, doing experiments or working in front of a computer)

I am aware of the terms “lectures“, “tutorials“, and “laboratory”, but are they used in the same way? I also heard that the US system often doesn't have “travaux dirigés”, but I don't know to what extent that's true.

  • 3
    For this question to be acceptable here, you need to describe what the words mean in English, and then as a supporting detail you can say that the words exist in French.
    – user11550
    Aug 27, 2012 at 20:53
  • 4
    lectures/recitations/laboratories? Terminology may differ in the various English-speaking countries. Aug 27, 2012 at 21:05

3 Answers 3


It depends on the type of class, the type of school, and quite possibly geography.

When I took engineering and chemistry classes in university (in the United States), we had lecture, recitation ("travaux dirigés"), and labs (laboratory.)

In non-science classes, practical work was a part of recitation and there was no separate laboratory section. This was common in math, statistics, and economics classes.

Some smaller classes only had lecture, and all practical work was expected to be performed outside of class. This was common in liberal arts classes (literature, ethics, etc.)

I have never heard of the term "tutorials" being used in the United States, but I've heard tell that it's more commonly used in the United Kingdom.

Outside of higher education -- that is, in elementary, middle, and high schools -- it's common to simply have "classes", without specialized sessions for practical work. For example, in an algebra class, it would be common for a teacher to lecture about a topic and then have students do practical work immediately following. The only exception would be for introductory science classes, such as biology or chemistry, which might have periodic labs to cover topics learned in lecture.

  • We had lectures, labs, and tutorials — in the States.
    – tchrist
    Aug 28, 2012 at 0:08
  • I think there are probably regional differences, and probably differences between various kinds of schools. I went to an engineering school in the Rockies, for example. Aug 28, 2012 at 1:44

This depends on the country or university. For the US in general:

  • lectures - where the professor (prof) talks a lot for the whole time, with few questions or interruptions.
  • recitation or section or discussion - recitation is more formal hoe it might be referred to officially or in course catalogs, section is what people actually say. Section is usually run by a 'teaching assistant' and can often be lecture like but is more open to back and forth questions or discussion. It might be a place to have students come up to the board to write out homework solutions or for the TA to present solutions. For a language course, this would be vocal exercises, directed conversation, or general discussion. Other than the latter, this is not particularly 'travaux' or 'dirigés' (for literality)
  • lab or practicum - it depends on the subject. Most sciences say lab, even for software or engineering where you're not in a laboratory.
  • I've never heard it called "section." Perhaps it's a regional thing? +1 for mentioning the different people who run the different parts. Aug 27, 2012 at 22:34
  • The people often also have different labels. What have you heard what I call 'section'?
    – Mitch
    Aug 27, 2012 at 22:35
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    We always called it "recitation." "Discussion" was a part of the lecture in the few liberal arts classes I took. I also went to a purely engineering school, which may account for some difference in terminology. Aug 27, 2012 at 22:38
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    What you’re calling a discussion, we always called tutorials.
    – tchrist
    Aug 28, 2012 at 0:09

One might call them lectures, tutorials and practicals (chiefly British).

  • +1 for lectures and practicals, but tutorials sounds a little unfamiliar to me in a school setting. I think my teachers called them something like in-class exercises.
    – Cameron
    Aug 27, 2012 at 22:26

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