6 Ways to Call Someone Sensei Like a Native!

6 Ways to Call Someone Sensei Like a Native

If you are interested in Japanese culture, you must have heard of the word “sensei.” It means a teacher or a master in Japanese. If you are learning judo, you must have called your judo teacher “sensei.” We, Japanese, call all the teachers, including school teachers and cooking teachers, “sensei.” It would sound more natural to call your teachers “Yamada sensei” than calling them “Yamada san,” which translates into “Mr. or Ms. Yamada.” Since the use of the word “sensei” varies widely, it might be hard for non-native speakers to know to whom you should address as “sensei.” I will give you some tips, in this article, on calling someone “sensei” in Japanese like a native speaker.



 

6 Ways to Call Someone Sensei Like a Native!

 

1. School teachers

When we start going to school in Japan, we learn that we should call our teachers as “sensei.” While it is common in Western countries to call teachers using Mr. or Ms., we never call teachers using “san” in Japanese. Even if you are a parent, you call your children’s teachers as “sensei.” If you are learning Japanese in school, it would be appropriate for you to call your teacher “sensei.” In some non formal school, we call teachers with their first name. You can also add “sensei” after their first name to sound more like a native speaker. If your teacher’s name is “Eriko”, you can call her “Eriko sensei” for example.

 

2. Instructors

Although gym instructors or flower arrangement instructors aren’t teachers in strict sense, we call them “sensei” in Japan as well. In fact, the word “sensei” applies to everyone who teaches something in a class. If you are taking a yoga class in Japan, for example, you can call your instructor “sensei.” Since those classes are very casual, we usually call them with their first name and add “sensei” at the end.

 

3. College or University professors

I have told you that we can use “sensei” very casually, like you are calling your friendly gym instructors by their first names. On the other hand, we also use “sensei” for important college or university professors. The word “sensei” actually means school teachers from primary school to high school. There is another word for “professor” that is “kyoju” in Japanese. When we call professors, however, we usually use “sensei” just as you call your professors with Mr. or Ms. in Western countries. If you know that you are talking to professors, it would be polite to address them as “sensei.”

 

4. Doctors and Lawyers

We consider doctors and lawyers as very important professions in Japan just as well as in Western countries. The word “doctor” translates into “isha” or “ishi” in Japanese. We usually use the title “ishi” for doctors. As you say “Dr. Yamada” for example, we say “Yamada ishi.” On the other hand, when we are actually talking to a doctor in person, it isn’t appropriate to call them “ishi.” Instead we call them “sensei.” The same thing applies to lawyers. The word “lawyer” is “bengoshi” in Japanese. However we call them “sensei” when we are talking to them directly.

 

5. Politicians and Pastors

Now you know that we usually call important people, such as professors and doctors, “sensei.” It is quite logic, therefore, to call politicians and pastors as “sensei.” It will show them a respect by calling this way. It is, however, better to call the prime minister as “shusyo” and other elected ministers as “daijin” for the formality.

 

6. Artists

Although not all, some very successful artists are called “sensei” as well. We usually call published authors “sensei.” It makes sense because they are also culturally important people. Likewise manga writers, painters and architects are also called the same. In fact, anyone who has special talent or know-how are called “sensei” in Japan. It is also the case that some famous public figures, such as great presenters on TV, are also called “sensei.”

 

Conclusion

I have listed the type of people that we call “sensei” in Japanese. You must have noticed that the title “sensei” can be used to address lightly to instructors or school teachers and also can be used to address important figures in our society, such as politicians or doctors. Since the word “sensei” can be applied like Mr. or Ms. in English, it would be more appropriate to call those people who work in professions listed above as “sensei,” instead of calling them using “san.” For your information, you might have also learned that we use the title “sama” as the polite form of “san.” It is, however, the form of respect we only use toward clients. It won’t be appropriate to use when you are addressing someone who are not your clients. that we sometimes use this title lightly for all kinds of instructors and teachers.

 

6 Ways to Call Someone Sensei Like a Native!

1. School teachers
2. Instructors
3. College or University professors
4. Doctors and Lawyers
5. Politicians and Pastors
6. Artists