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I'm taking beginner Japanese lessons. Would お疲れ様でした be an appropriate thing one might say to the teacher at the end of a lesson?

We're "colleagues" in a sense since I'm an academic at the same university; but in the context of the lesson of course I'm a student and she is the sensei.

If it makes any difference, the lesson finishes at 7pm, so it's the end of the work day.

Would this be a good alternative to saying something like ありがとう ございます? What other phrases would be appropriate in that context?

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    Are you also a teacher at the same university? – sazarando Feb 17 at 16:13
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There is a very different dynamic between student and teacher than there is between two colleagues, even colleagues occupying different places in the hierarchy. You need to see yourself as having two separate identities in relation to this teacher.

While you are in the role of a student, you should speak as a student. This is especially important if you are in the company of other students.

You need to decide the point when you are stepping out of the role of student and into the role of colleague and ensure that it matches or follows the point at which your teacher has shed their role.

There may be subtle indicators that the teacher has shed their role. How they speak to you, how they address you, and their general demeanor might be more or less subtle clues.

All of this might, however, be of no special importance to your particular teacher. Some people tend to be more or less concerned about what is considered 'proper etiquette' and part of your job is to gauge your teacher's position and if you can't, to err on the side of propriety.

Long story short, when you're in the classroom or in the presence of other students immediately before/after class, ありがとうございました would likely be more appropriate.

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    "You need to decide the point when you are stepping out of the role of student and into the role of colleague and ensure that it matches or follows the point at which your teacher has shed their role." I'm thinking the exact thing: inside the class (as student), say ありがとうございました, but let's say, on after-class eat-together (as colleagues), say お疲れ様でした. – Andrew T. Feb 17 at 17:03
  • OK thanks! - I think I complicated my question with the business of being colleagues - let's forget the fact that I am from the same institution, the idea is that お疲れ様でした would somehow be a patronising thing for a student to say to a teacher? Can you elaborate on that at all? – James Martin Feb 17 at 18:27
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    It's not patronizing per se. It just puts you in the same club/in-group as the other individual. While you could consider the company president part of your club/group and use おつかれさまでした, it would be less appropriate to a teacher, parent, or other such authority figure. It lacks humility. The main reason is that they are not only above you in the hierarchy, but that they are in another hierarchy altogether above yours. – BJCUAI Feb 17 at 18:42
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In this case, just saying お疲れ様でした would sound disrespectful, because she is the sensei during the lessons, after all. After you reach an advanced level, saying ありがとうございました first and adding お疲れ様でした would be nice:

○○先生、ありがとうございました。遅くまでお疲れ様でした。次回もよろしくお願いします。

But as a starter, let's never forget to say ありがとうございました.

  • Thanks! Can you explain your first sentence a bit more? Probably I shouldn't have mentioned the complication about being colleagues in another setting at all - mainly interested in what would be appropriate / inappropriate for a student to say to a teacher at the end of a lesson. Does お疲れ様でした suggest a more equal relationship, then? Could one say it to one's superior at work? – James Martin Feb 17 at 18:29
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    In general, you can say お疲れ様でした to your colleagues including your boss, but you cannot say it to your teacher. – naruto Feb 17 at 19:02

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