high school, middle school, junior high school (Mexican Spanish)

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I'm a substitute English teacher in California who works in several high schools and middle schools. I've seen so many different phrases for "high school" that I don't know which one is correct in Mexican Spanish. Is it "escuela alta," "escuela secundaria," or "colegio secundario" for "high school?" Likewise, I'm not sure if "escuela media" is correct for "middle school." Is there a better phrase in Mexican Spanish? I don't want to learn slang.

Anyway, thank you all. I haven't even figured out the word in in Mexican Spanish for "junior high school." LOL! Thanks so much. This is such a great forum!
  • There are other threads about this very same topic, but here it goes:

    elementary school (1-6) = primaria
    junior hs (7-9) = secundaria
    hs (10-12) = preparatoria.

    If you want to be absolutely formal, add "escuela" before each of them (i.e. "escuela primaria"). Junior hs or middle hs is usually "secundaria". I hope this helps. Cheers.
    I'm a substitue French teacher in the Dallas TX system and I've analyzed the same problem.

    As Roberto mentioned, the system used in Mexico is somewhat similiar to the one in the USA. In Mexico you primarily hear:
    Primaria (grades 1-6)
    Secundaria (grades 7-9)
    Preparatoria - also called bachillerato (grades 10-12)

    Here in the USA, the terminology may be identical to the Mexican usage, as given above, but it may often vary from city to city depending on the origen of most of the parents and also who "translates" the terminology. The Spanish-speaking teaching staff in any US school may speak excellent Spanish and use the appropriate terms but sometimes teachers are third and fourth generation Americans raised in Spanish-speaking homes but educated entirely in English. As a result, you sometimes hear anglicized terms like "Escuela alta" which is a pure translation using English words translated awkwardly into bad Spanish (my opinion).

    Here in Dallas the Mexican terminology is primarily used in most schools. Virtually everyone says "preparatoria" for High School but the term for Middle School seems to vary. Some people say "Secundaria", as do Mexicans in Mexico, but some teachers seem to feel that this is too close to "Secondary school" which is a term used for "High School" in some English-speaking countries. So these folks seem to prefer "escuela intermedia" or "Escuela media".

    I lived in LA for several years and more often than not I heard "preparatoria" for High School but I also heard "secundaria" and even (sniff, sniff,...) "escuela alta"...

    If you type in the words "high school" into the "Dictionary Look Up" space at the top of the page you'll see the lengthy amount of discussion that's already occured on the subject. There are a lot of us out there that want to use the right terminology and it's understandable that the question gets posed pretty often....

    Good luck in your teaching career. The kids are worth it!

    Hi Bibliófilo:

    Please, look up the dictionary the word "schooll" and there you will find many threads where you could follow your questions for each terms: "High school", "Middle school" and "Junior school";


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