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Read = Studied? British to American translation help needed

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Oct 15, 2007, 6:00pm Top

While looking for Education info to fill in on authors' Common Knowledge pages, I keep coming across phrases like, "I read Literature at Cambridge", or "She read Economics and Philosophy at Oxford". Am I right in assuming this means they studied those subjects, rather than taught them?

Oct 15, 2007, 6:08pm Top

If I remember correctly, in British Universities, a reader is a paid position. Somewhat similar to a teaching assistant. Though I could be entirely wrong.

Edited: Oct 15, 2007, 6:11pm Top

Check this page.

Oct 15, 2007, 6:17pm Top

I have heard "reading" used to mean "studying", including by undergraduates. This usage is different from the sense of a "reader" as a paid position. I think you're right in your assumption.

Oct 15, 2007, 6:18pm Top

>2 Jesse_wiedinmyer:

As far as I'm aware fleela is right in saying "she read Literature at Cambridge" means that she studied literature as an undergraduate. I think that Reader position is separate.

I'm trying to find a reference for sure. Particularly as I have a feeling that there is a third term for "studied x".

Oct 15, 2007, 6:20pm Top

I believe you'll find it's the British equivalent of the American "majored in".

Oct 15, 2007, 6:23pm Top

#5 iis right. My degree is in Drama, so some would say I read drama.

Edited: Oct 15, 2007, 6:26pm Top

on the subject!

Oct 15, 2007, 6:29pm Top

Thanks for all the help! I just love how we can speak the same language yet not always understand each other. Makes for interesting reading!

Oct 15, 2007, 6:42pm Top


Once upon a time in the United States an aspiring attorney could accede to the bar by reading law or by studying at a law school. The reader worked in the office of a practicing attorney and gained his qualifying knowledge and skills there.


Oct 16, 2007, 6:31am Top

Yep to 'read' a subject means to study it. I 'read' literature as an undergraduate but certainly never taught it!

Oct 16, 2007, 6:55am Top

Many UK TV viewers will be familiar with the term from watching "University Challenge" when the eight contestants introduce themselves along the lines of "I'm Simon from Tunbridge Wells and I'm reading law". If it's Jack from Manchester they might say "studying" as "reading" is a bit more high falutin'. Many universities don't seem to have readerships in the other sense. My godfather was a Reader in economic history at Manchester but it wasn't as Jesse suggested equivalent to an assistant but actually quite senior - just under a Professor and above Senior Lecturer.

Oct 16, 2007, 8:00am Top

Just for the US people reading in Britain a lecturer is what you call a professor. Teaching forms the bulk of that role.

What we Britons call a professor is someone who has either a departmental or personal chair. Generally we don't have tenure as the US does.

We also have research fellows which may also be called professors in the US.

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