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Is it appropriate to use [先生]{せんせい}, either by itself or as an honorific after their name, when addressing a ski instructor?

I'm not sure whether it'd be appropriate because:

  1. Using 先生 in this context may be disrespectful of other kinds of teachers, in that skiing instructor may be a less honorable profession than other kinds of teaching.
  2. It may be too formal or cold or impersonal, and therefore not appropriate for a recreational activity.
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

It's fine for ski instructors and pretty much anyone else who teaches you something.

Using it as an honorific after the name is a little more formal than just using 先生 by itself. But it conveys your respect and appreciation for the fact that they are imparting their knowledge to you. I think it's possible someone might correct you and say that just さん is fine, but I can't imagine anyone being bothered in any sense of it being inappropriate.

  1. It's not disrespectful to other teachers. Simply put, who you address as 先生 has no bearing on who else is addressed as 先生.

  2. It's not too cold or informal, and can be kind of a fun joke. Sometimes I'll ask someone at a store or a waiter at a restaurant for clarification on some Japanese, and then say something like 「有難う、先生」. Gets a chuckle.

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ありがとう has kanji?! – silvermaple Dec 31 '11 at 6:28
有難う、Dave M G-先生! – Andrew Grimm Dec 31 '11 at 8:56
@silvermaple: Yep. So does どういたしまして. – Questioner Dec 31 '11 at 9:04
@AndrewGrimm: 如何致しまして! – Questioner Dec 31 '11 at 9:05

You can use 先生 to anyone who teaches anything in Japan. In traditional sports or arts, Japanese use [師匠]{ししょう}.

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Is 師匠 for a one-on-one type of deal? In my 弓道部 (Japanese Archery Club) our "teacher" was 先生...For context this was a University club, in Japan, and he really didn't show up all too often, we were mainly instructed by our 先輩. – silvermaple Jan 2 '12 at 20:37
@shin Does it sound weird to use 師匠 for a tuition teacher? – Pacerier Mar 27 '12 at 4:34

I'd never call my ski instructor '--さん'. Nor have I ever called my calligraphy teacher '--さん' or '師匠'.

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