Thursday, July 19, 2012

quicko: double trouble

Now this is a real humdinger of a false friend.  Americans and Australians both use it, but they use it in very nearly opposite ways, quite often for years on end without realizing how linguistically daring they've been and what very narrow academic escapes they've made.  I'm an English language professional and it took me the help of a stunt linguist to get it safely right.

So yeah.  My story starts late one night and ... yeah, I haven't got time for the story, sorry.  It's late one night now and evidently there's paid a English language profession waiting for me in the morning.  Here's the short of it:

America:  to get a BA you need a minimum of one major.  One's the norm, more or less, but two is cool too.  It's more work, more prestige, yadda yadda yadda.  There's also this thing called a minor.  Basically it carries no real weight, but usually no one sees fit to tell you this until you've decided to do one or two, at which point your best bet is to scrap the whole plan entirely and go for an interdisciplinary major.  Exit, tassle left.

Australia:  to get a BA you need ... something.  Check with your friendly neighborhood Australian as to what exactly.  But there's a major involved, which would be along the lines of "lots" of courses in a particular department.  For example, English.  You'd take ... a lot of the English courses available.  But then, if, hey, you really, really loved English and you took a double dose of pretty much everything the department offered, you'd end up with a double major.

Whoa, see the difference?  America double major = study two different fields; Australian double major = study one field lots.  An Australian major sounds like of kind an American minor to me (maybe they have to have at least two to graduate?  I hope so ...), but who knows.  Like I said, it's late for me now (well, not relatively speaking, but late enough on extended doses of entirely less sleep than "needed").  So, goodnight, sleep tight, don't let the double majors bite.

1 comment:

Laetitia :-) said...

Australia - you need two majors or an extended major (sometimes called a double major although the term doesn't seem to be used in modern academia) plus a minor.

If you need 48 points to get the degree, a major is 16, a minor is 8 and an extended major is at least 24 (some particular streams require 28). So it means that technically you can do 3 majors (but maybe only two will be written on the piece of paper - perhaps your best two - not sure) but generally people do two majors and the rest are a smattering of various things they've tinkered with while they work out what they want to major in.