Thursday, November 23, 2017

学校, Gakkou & Words for "School" - Vocabulary

Most anime is in a school, and everybody knows "school" in Japanese is a gakkou 学校. But is it a shougakkou 小学校 or a chuugakkou 中学校? Wait. What's the difference between shougakkou and chuugakkou, again? What about koukou??? What are the meanings of all these words?!

Shougakkou 小学校

A shougakkou 小学校 is a school for children ages around 6 to 12 (shougakkou has 6 grades). It's similar to an elementary school in the United States. The word is written with the kanji for "small," shou 小.

Chuugakkou 中学校

A chuugakkou 中学校 is a school for children ages around 12 to 15 (chuugakkou has 3 grades). It's similar to a middle school or junior high in the United States, but not exactly. The word is written with the kanji for "middle," chuu 中.

Shougakkou vs. Chuugakkou

One difference between shougakkou and chuugakkou is that "school uniforms," gakkou seifuku 学校制服, are normally required to be worn from chuugakkou and above. Students of a shougakkou rarely have uniforms.

This means if an anime character does not wear a school uniform in school, they are shougakkou students, "elementary school" students.

Koukou 高校

A koukou 高校 is a school for teenagers aged around 15 to 18 (koukou has 3 grades). It's similar to a high school in the United states. The word is an abbreviation of koutou gakkou 高等学校, which means "high grade school."

Daigaku 大学

A daigaku 大学 is any post-secondary school. Any college or university. For students 18 and above. (daigaku courses usually take 4 years) It is written with the kanji for "big," dai 大.

How to Say School in Japanese?

There are three ways to say "school" in Japanese:
  • gakkou 学校
  • gakuen 学園
  • gakuin 学院

The most common of the above is, of course, gakkou. But what about the other two? What's the difference between gakkou and gakuen, gakuen and gakuin, and gakkou and gakuin?

There really isn't any big difference. They can all be translated as just "school." But, for the sake of reference, I'll explain a bit more about them below.

Gakkou 学校

A gakkou is any "school." This includes shougakkou, chuugakkou, koukou, as well as basically any other school.

Gakuen 学園

The word gakuen means literally "study garden," but it has nothing to do with gardening.

There are two meanings for gakuen.

First, a place that combines multiple schools. That is, if a normal gakkou can be a kindergarten, an elementary school, middle school, or a high school, etc. A gakuen usually combines two of these. For example, you can have a gakuen that has a kindergarten and an elementary school, or a gakuen that has a middle school and a high school, etc.

In this case, the middle school part of the gakuen is called chuutoubu 中等部, the high school part koutoubu 高等部 and so on.

In anime, characters are often students of a middle school or high school, so a gakuen that combines multiple educational stages isn't very useful (in anime).

The second meaning, (more useful in anime), is a "school," gakkou 学校, that's prestigious enough to call itself a gakuen instead of just gakkou like everyone else. In this case, the gakuen is often a high school or college. (in anime, it's often frequented by the most filthily rich students ever).

Gakuin 学院

The word gakuin means literally "study organ (institution)."

Historically, a gakuin was a school associated to the Christian church. It's also commonly used to refer to private schools. You could say that a gakuin is an educational institution endorsed by someone (other than the government).

In manga and anime, a gakuin often conducts some shady business in the shadows.

Coed & Single-Sex Schools

Most schools are coed (co-educational, teach both guys and girls), and get called:
  • kyougaku 共学
    Coed. (literally "together (both sexes) education")

Some schools only allow students of a certain sex. These types are common in anime, specially in moe anime containing only girls. Such schools are called:
  • danshikou 男子校
    A school for "boys," danshi 男子.
  • joshikou 女子校
    A school for "girls," joshi 女子.

In the case of high-schools there are some similar words (note the kou is a different kanji):
  • danshi koukou 男子高校
    danshikou 男子高
    High school for boys.
  • joshi koukou 女子高校
    joshikou 女子高
    High school for girls.

High school girls, whether from coed or single-sex schools, are sometimes called joshikousei 女子高生.

Public & Private Schools

Some schools are public and some schools are private. The words used to differentiate between one and the other are these:
  • kouritsu 公立
    Public. (literally "government erected")
  • toritsu 都立
    Public, built by the city. (literally "city erected")
  • shiritsu 私立
    Private. (literally "private erected")
    (and yes, this is the same kanji as watashi 私)

  • shiritsu gakkou 私立学校
    shiritsu gakuen 私立学園
    Private school.
  • kouritsu 公立学校
    kouritsu gakuen 公立学園
    Public school.


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