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先生 or 教師: stupid question alert

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先生 or 教師: stupid question alert

Postby Sairana » Thu 04.02.2009 2:05 am

I know the meaning of both, this is mostly a curiosity thing. I'm breezing through the "beginner" Japanese stuff on smart.fm, right, and I encounter this sentence:

私は日本語の先生になりたいです。

Is this proper usage? I would have expected 日本語の教師, because I just didn't think 先生 was used this way.

Ultimately, this has no impact on my understanding of the sentence. Sorry to put such a basic question up. :P
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Re: 先生 or 教師: stupid question alert

Postby Bucko » Thu 04.02.2009 4:15 am

先生 has the sense of 'master' or 'wise one' whereas 教師 simply means 'teacher'. I was told by a few people to avoid using 先生 for one's self as it's like you're highlighting your own wisdom. 教師 is more objective so you should probably use this.
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Re: 先生 or 教師: stupid question alert

Postby keatonatron » Thu 04.02.2009 4:33 am

Bucko is right about the difference in meaning, but the use of 先生 in the OP's sentence is also fine.

教師 often has the implied meaning that the person hasn't been specifically trained to teach. You can see this in the phrase 家庭教師, which is more of a tutor than a teacher (This is what you would call a college student who has a part-time job tutoring high school students; they haven't had any special training other than completing high school themselves, so they would not be called 先生).

I just graduated from a technical school here in Japan. We had three full-time teachers, who we called 先生. We also had 10 or so "teachers" who are currently working in the field, and came to my school once a week to teach a class based on the knowledge they've earned from experience. Since they weren't actually trained to teach, we called them 教師. I would say it's more like an instructor than a teacher.

So, it is my impression that the sentence 先生になりたい would mean the speaker wants to go to school, get a master's degree, get a teaching license, and become a teacher. If you were to say 教師になりたい, it would imply you want to become a paid mentor or tutor using the knowledge you've gained through experience, without going to school with the intent of becoming a teacher.



The confusing thing about 先生 is that it can also just mean "wise/experienced person," like Bucko said. Doctor's are often called 先生, even though they aren't teachers. It does seem inappropriate to call yourself 先生 in that sense, but if you are an actual employed teacher, phrases like 先生をやっています, 高校の先生です etc. are quite common.
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Re: 先生 or 教師: stupid question alert

Postby Sairana » Thu 04.02.2009 5:42 am

Wow, so I'm glad I asked. That's a really good insight. I knew the basic difference (a la Bucko's post), but I really like nuance you've explained, Keat.

I guess I'm just easily amused. ^_^ Thank you very much!
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