And kanji with manga
Sunday, April 2, 2017

[Meaning in Japanese] sensei 先生

In Japanese, sensei 先生 means "teacher" most of the time. It can also mean "doctor," or refer to an artist or author, a "master" of arts. It's also a honorific, so it can come after the name of someone who's a teacher, doctor, artist, etc.

先生はね 渚君 ある人との約束を守るために君達の先生になりました
Manga: "Assassination Classroom," Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 暗殺教室 (Chapter 2, 野球の時間)

Kanji of Sensei

The kanji of sensei 先生 mean "previous," 先, and "life," 生.

The kanji of sensei 先生, "teacher."

Of course, it's not always the case that your sensei is older than you, but that's just where the word comes from.

sensee せんせー

The word sensee せんせ is a relaxed pronunciation of sensei. It means the same thing, it's just spelled differently, pronounced more casually, and not the proper way to spell the word.

せんせー なんだ? 目が悪いので前の席と交換してほしいんですが
Manga: School Rumble, スクールランブル (Chapter 3, Deep Space Nine)

"Teacher" in Japanese

The word sensei 先生 can mean "teacher" in Japanese, and it can be used by a teacher as first person pronoun when talking to their students.

先生はね 渚君 ある人との約束を守るために君達の先生になりました
Manga: "Assassination Classroom," Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 暗殺教室 (Chapter 2, 野球の時間)
  • Context: Koro-sensei 殺せんせー, a teacher, talks to Shiota Nagisa 潮田渚, one of his students.
  • sensei wa ne, Nagisa-kun
    先生 渚君
    Nagisa-kun, [about me], [you see]
    • In this line, the speaker is the teacher, the sensei.
    • When he talks "about the sensei," he's talking about himself: "about me."
  • {aru hito to no yakusoku wo
    mamoru} tame ni
    kimi-tachi no sensei ni
    narimashita

    ある約束守るために君達の先生になりました
    In order to keep a promise with a [certain] person {[I've] become your teacher}.
    • kimi-tachi no
      君達の
      Your. (plural, as the teacher "of you students.")

There are other words that can also refer to teachers, for example:

  • kyoushi
    教師
    Teacher.
    • Who teaches in a:
    • kyoushitsu
      教室
      Classroom.
    • Can also refer to a teacher as in someone who offers guidance in a:
    • kyoukai
      教会
      Church.
    • senkyoushi
      宣教師
      Missionary.
  • katei kyoushi
    家庭教師
    Family teacher. (literally.)
    Private tutor.
  • tan'nin kyoushi
    担任教師
    Teacher in charge.
    • The teacher who's in charge of a classroom, also known as "homeroom teacher."
    • tan'nin no sensei
      担任の先生
      (same meaning.)
  • kyouin
    教員
    Faculty member.
    • Any "educator" from grade school to high school.
  • kyouyu
    教諭
    Licensed teacher.
    • Someone with a license to teach in a school.
  • kyouju
    教授
    Professor.
    • Specially of an university, or college, daigaku 大学, as opposed to high-school and below.
  • hakase
    博士
    Professor. PhD. Doctor.
    • In anime, these are often researchers, inventors, scientists, not teachers.

"Master" in Japanese

The word sensei 先生 may also refer to a "master," in the sense that they're an expert in their field or craft and you can learn from them, even if they aren't in fact officially teaching anyone as a normal teacher would.

僕は助手です!! この名探偵桂木弥子先生の!!
Manga: Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro 魔人探偵 脳噛ネウロ (Chapter 1, 手【て】)
  • Context: just... just focus on the dialogue, okay?
  • boku wa joshu desu!!!
    僕は助手です!!
    I'm an assistant!!
  • kono meitantei
    Katsuragi Yako-sensei no!!

    この名探偵桂木弥子先生!!
    Of this famous detective, Katsuragi Yoko-sensei!!
    • She's a famous detective, because of her incredible detective skills, so she's addressed as a "master" of her craft.
    • The no の at the end turns the noun into a no-adjective, which normally qualifies what comes after it, but, in this case, it qualifies joshu, which is in a previous sentence.
    • sensei no joshu
      先生の助手
      Sensei's assistant.
      Assistant of sensei.
    • The dots on the furigana of 名探偵 express emphasis.

There are also other words for "master" in Japanese:

  • shishou
    師匠
    Master. (e.g. of martial arts.)
  • goshujinsama
    ご主人様

    A retainer's lord.
    A slave's master.
    A pet's owner.
    A shop's owner.
    A woman's husband.
  • masutaa suru
    マスターする
    To master. (a skill.)

"Doctor" in Japanese

The word sensei 先生 may also refer to a "doctor."

人間はやり直せる。 いまからでも遅くない・・・・・・ 先生・・・・・・ 先生と俺、あんまり年違わないけど・・・・・・・・・・・・ 先生・・・・・・親父みたいだ。
Manga: MONSTER, モンスター (Chapter 7, モンスター)
  • Context: a doctor talks to a patient in wheelchair, who is also a criminal.
  • ningen wa yari-naoseru.
    人間はやり直せる。
    Humans can do-over.
    Humans can [start again].
  • ima kara demo osokunai......
    いまからでも遅くない・・・・・・
    Even from now isn't late......
    • You can still start over, it isn't too late to begin now.
  • sensei......
    先生・・・・・・
    Doctor......
  • sensei to ore,
    anmari toshi
    chigawanai kedo............

    先生と俺、あんまり年違わないけど・・・・・・・・・・・・
    [You] and me, [our] ages don't differ much, but.........
    • We're about the same age, but...
  • sensei...... oyaji mitai da.
    先生・・・・・・親父みたいだ。
    [You]...... are like [my] father.

There are other words used to refer to doctors, for example:

  • isha
    医者
    Doctor.
  • oishasan
    お医者さん
    Doctor. (polite variant.)
  • ishi
    医師
    Doctor (certified.)
    • The difference between ishi 医師 and isha 医者 is that an isha is a "doctor" in the sense that they're treating patients, while ishi 医師 is literally a "master of medicine."
    • That is, ishi 医師 puts emphasis on knowledge and expertise, and, perhaps most importantly, on their medical certification, their medical license.
    • In manga, sometimes you have black market doctors who don't have a license but go around treating people. Those would be isha, but not ishi.

"Author," "Writer," "Artist" in Japanese

The worse sensei 先生 can also refer to authors, writers of fiction, novels, and artists, painters, illustrators, etc.

In the manga and anime Bakuman バクマン, for example, Ashirogi Mutou 亜城木夢叶 is the pen name used by the two main characters on the manga they author. It's not even a real name, it's just a pseudonym. Even so, they are still called Ashirogi-sensei 亜城木先生 by other characters in the series because their skill and knowledge in the field has been deemed real.

There are other words for this stuff:

  • sakka
    作家
    Author.
  • shousetsu-ka
    小説家
    Novelist. Fiction writer.
    • Writes:
    • shousetsu
      小説
      Novel.
  • manga-ka
    漫画家

    Manga artist.
  • ga-ka
    画家
    Painter.
  • irasutoreetaa
    イラストレーター
    Illustrator.

Sensei After Someone's Name

When sensei 先生 comes after a person's name, it means that person is a sensei. That is: that person is a teacher, or a doctor, or an artist, or a writer, etc. For example:

  • watashi no sensei
    私の先生
    My teacher.
    • Here, sensei is a noun.
  • Tanaka-sensei
    田中先生
    Tanaka (who's a teacher.)
    Teacher Tanaka.
    • Here, sensei is a honorific.
  • watashi no sensei wa Tanaka-san
    私の先生は田中さん
    My teacher is Tanaka-san.
  • {sensei ni osowatta} koto wa isshou wasurenai
    先生に教わったことは一生忘れない
    What {teacher taught [me]}, [I] will [never] forget.
    • isshou wasurenai
      一生忘れない
      To not forget through one's whole life.
      To never forget.
  • {Tanaka-sensei ni osowatta} koto wa isshou wasurenai
    田中先生に教わったことは一生忘れない
    What {Tanaka-sensei taught [me]} [I] will [never] forget.

When this sort of thing happens, it's called a honorific. In Japanese, when a noun is used as a honorific, it means that person is that noun. This often happens with titles of professions. An example of another noun honorific:

  • watashi no senpai
    私の先輩
    My senior.
  • Tanaka-senpai
    田中先輩
    Tanaka (who's my senior.)
  • Tanaka-hakase
    田中博士
    Tanaka (who's a professor.)
    Professor Tanaka.
  • Tanaka-shishou
    田中師匠
    Tanaka (who's my master.)
    Master Tanaka.
  • Tanaka-oniisan
    田中お兄さん
    Tanaka (who's my older brother.)
    Big bro Tanaka.

4 comments:

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  1. However this is wrong in many cases where the "gakusei" is an illiterate adult and the "sensei" is a young child.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, well, the origin of the word doesn't match how it's used in the modern world.

      Delete
  2. I have heard that sometimes the "dehati" people address each other as "sensei" even if the other person is a teacher or not

    ReplyDelete