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Both seem to be synonyms. In what cases should I use each one?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 19 down vote accepted

"Lehrveranstaltung" is a general for any teaching event: it can be used for a lecture, seminar, project, exercise session, and what-not, though typically in an academic context (i.e. at a university or other Hochschule). You can use the term both to denote a single event but also a series of events that forms an organisational unit.

Examples:

  • "Morgen früh habe ich drei Lehrveranstaltungen: eine Vorlesung, ein Seminar und einen Sprachkurs."
  • "Diese Lehrveranstaltung findet im Sommersemester statt und gibt 5 ECTS."

"Vorlesung" is more specific and can mean several things:

  • A single lecture, that is a period of time during which the lecturer presents material to the class directly.

    Example: "Ich war heute morgen nicht in der Vorlesung."

  • A series of lectures, typically over the course of a term ("Semester").

    Example: "Die Vorlesung X ist ziemlich spannend, aber die Übungen sind schlecht."

  • A whole course with several components: lectures plus exercise sessions, etc. The proper term for that would be "Modul" (cf. Bologna reform) but "Vorlesung" has stuck.

    Example: "Nächstes Semester höre ich eine Vorlesung über X."
    "eine Vorlesung hören" here means "to take a course"

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So Vorlesung is perhaps a reading material that someone has to read before he goes to a lecture? –  Alejandro V. May 19 at 18:44
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I second what Raphael says. Lehrveranstaltung is a more general, all-encompassing term: A Vorlesung is an LVA, but not necessarily vice versa. No, "Vorlesung" only refers to the lecture as such, not any reading material. What Raphael meant be "Excercises" are compulsory study groups and things like that, i.e. other class-related activities. –  Ingmar May 19 at 19:01
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@AlejandroV.: No, that would just be "Literatur" or maybe "Kursmaterial"; "Skript" is also common. Does my edit clarify things? –  Raphael May 19 at 21:07
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Vorlesung

The german verb "vorlesen" means "read aloud". It means that one person is reading some written text aloud and all other people who are present are listening. In ancient times this was how teaching happened is schools and universities. (Some bad teachers still use this style of teaching nowadays.)

"Die Vorlesung" is the noun that is build from the verb "vorlesen". "Die Vorlesung" is the name for the process of reading aloud in front of listeners.

Today the noun "Vorlesung" does not necessarily mean that someone is reading some text out of a book. But it still means, that one person (the teacher/lector) is standing in front of a group of listeners (the students) while teaching them ("Frontalunterricht" = frontal teaching). And it means that this is happening in a Universität or Fachhochschule. If a teacher is speaking to students in a school it is NOT called "Vorlesung"! In this case it is called "Unterricht". (You don't use the word "Unterricht" at Universität or Fachhochschule!)

Lehrveranstaltung

As Alex wrote in his answer the verbatim translation of "Lehr-Veranstaltung" is "Teach-Event". This can be every event where people are taught. Any kind of exercises, excursions, seminars, group-work, even with the teacher replaced by a computer program (e-teaching) can be a "Lehrveranstaltung". A "Vorlesung" is just one kind of "Lehrveranstaltung".

But what I said about "Vorlesung" is true for "Lehrveranstaltung" to: This term is used only in a "Universität" or "Fachhochschule". If students from a school are on an excursion this is NOT a Lehrveranstaltung, but an extraordinary kind of "Unterricht".

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A Lehrveranstaltung can be in a school etc. It is Lehr+Veranstaltung = Teach+Event. So it is an event where someone teaches something. Vorlesung is mostly used at universities.

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I don't think I have ever encountered the term "Lehrveranstaltung" at school, or anywhere else outside of university. Venues like Volkshochschule typically use "Kurs". –  Raphael May 19 at 20:54
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Apart from all the aswers already given: "Lehrveranstaltung" for me is more a term you find in official documents, e.g. regulations, law or certificates. In day-by-day conversations you will hardly hear it.

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Which term do you use instead for saying something like, "Gosh, I've got so much coursework on my plate this term"? –  Raphael May 20 at 22:41
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