Japanese Vocabulary for Back-to-School

Japanese Homework















It’s back to school time! Let’s learn some Japanese vocabulary related to teachers.

You may already know the word 先生 sensei. It’s a Japanese word which has been entered into English dictionaries. In English, it seems to specifically refer to a martial arts instructor. However, in Japanese, the word sensei is the most general expression that means teacher.

Sensei being the most general expression, there are several other words which you can use to refer to specific types of teachers:

  • 教師 kyoushi teacher (This is also a general expression, but sounds more formal than 先生 sensei.)
  • 教員 kyouin school teacher
  • 教諭 kyouyu elementary/junior high school/high school teacher
  • 教授 kyouju  professor
  • 准教授 junkyouju  associate professor
  • 講師 koushi lecturer
  • インストラクター insutorakutaa instructor (usually refers to an instructor who teaches sports/fitness, excluding traditional Japanese martial arts)
  • 師匠 shishou master
  • 家庭教師 kateikyoushi home tutor
  • 恩師 onshi one’s formal, beloved teacher

When you call your teacher, you can always say, “Sensei!” or “[Last Name] sensei!” regardless of your teacher’s title. In other words, even if your teacher’s official title is インストラクター insutorakutaa or 講師 koushi, you always call him/her “[Last Name] sensei”.