Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Exactly what is "Sensei"? It turns out that wikepedia has a great definition:
Sensei (先生) is a Japanese title used to refer to or address teachers, professors, professionals such as lawyers, CPA and doctors, politicians, clergymen, and other figures of authority. The word is also used to show respect to someone who has achieved a certain level of mastery in an art form or some other skill: accomplished novelists, musicians, and artists for example are addressed in this way.
The Japanese expression of sensei shares the same characters as the Chinese word, pronounced xiānshēng in Mandarin. Xiansheng is a courtesy title for a man of respected stature. It can also be attached to a man's name to mean "gentleman" or, more commonly, "mister". Prior to the development of the modern vernacular, xiansheng was used to address teachers of both genders; this has fallen out of usage in Standard Mandarin, though it is retained in some southern Chinese dialects such as Cantonese, Hokkien and Hakka where it still has the meaning "teacher" or "doctor". In Japanese, sensei is still used to address people of both genders. It is likely both the current Southern Chinese and Japanese usages are more reflective of its Middle Chinese etymology.
In English, the word sensei is most commonly used when referring to a martial arts instructor but it has also come to be used outside martial arts and other similarly cultural contexts. In business and industry, sensei is often used to refer to an outside, third-party expert who coaches or advises on operational and organizational excellence. In particular, James Womack's book Lean Thinking advises companies to seek out a "lean sensei" who can provide expert coaching on how to achieve organizational effectiveness. Lean sensei has since become a common term for describing an expert who can provide advice on operational and organizational strategy.
Actual link to the definition:
Wikipedia definition of Sensei