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  1. #1
    Member BMEF's Avatar
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    Default NFs, What Is The Most Polite Way for me to Address my Teachers (Middle Eastern Case)?

    Dear readers,

    I'm a 16 year-old male student studying at an American school in Kuwait. I'm currently having a problem finding the right way to address teachers... Students in my school (99.99%) ALWAYS call teachers "Miss/Ms." or "Mister/Mr.".. Yet, for some reason, I find that disrespectful to foreign teachers that are new to Kuwait.. About a year ago, I started addressing my male teachers (Americans/Canadians/Europeans) the name "sir" and have noticed that they really appreciate that and act more courteous towards me whenever I go talk to them..

    The problem is I find it awkward to find the most polite way to address female teachers, especially those that are in their early twenties (just graduated from universities).... I don't like "Miss/Ms." because I find that just about as disrespectful as "Mister/Mr.".. The word "Ma'am" might offend some female teachers because they would be thinking "How old does this kid think I am?!" The word "Madam" can be interpreted differently because I've heard that it also means a woman that is in charge of a house of prostitution..

    In Kuwait, teachers both male and female, are called by "Mr. First Name" / "Ms. First Name"..
    For example I usually say "Mr. James" in front of my class, but say "sir" when I approach that male teacher individually ( to not be laughed at for being different).. On the other hand, I ALWAYS call a female teacher, by "Ms.+First Name". For example, "Ms. Kathy".. I call her "Ms. Kathy" as well when I talk to her individually..

    Yet, I prefer to refer to my teachers when I'm talking to them on a daily basis by addressing them in one word... I'm sticking with "sir"..

    Back to my original question, what should I address female teachers in my situation??

    Sorry for the confusion and thank you in advance!

  2. #2
    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    Ma'am is probably the closest to what you're looking for. 'Miss' by itself could theoretically work, but it might be a little old fashioned. That's not always a bad thing, though.
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  3. #3
    Iron Maiden fidelia's Avatar
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    I used to be called Miss a lot when I lived on the reserve, but had never had that before. I usually use Ma'am in a tongue in cheek joking way, but wouldn't be offended if someone called me that (I'm 34). Ma'am is likely the word to use although it's not very common usage for us even in business situations anymore.

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    Emerging Tallulah's Avatar
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    I think ma'am is the closest thing we have to sir. Miss, to me, isn't quite as respectful. I think your teachers will appreciate your effort and tone, anyway.
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    Senior Member tkae.'s Avatar
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    So wait, are you Middle Eastern and are studying at the American school in Kuwait, or are you an American studying at the American school in Kuwait?

    So basically..

    If your teachers are American, they'll be used to being called, "Mr. ..." or "Ms./Mrs. ..." It's not even a respect thing, it's just the thing that I've always called teachers. I only changed it up when I got into college. And even then, I still do it -- if they have their Doctorate, I call them "Dr. ...", if they don't, I call them "Mr./Mrs. ...".

    Such as two of my teachers:

    I call my adviser Dr. North.
    I call my creative writing teacher Mrs. Cook.

    They're both women, and they're perfectly fine with it. In fact, my creative writing teacher wishes I'd just use her first name, but that's strictly a college thing that's on a case-by-case basis.

    So if you're looking for the "American" way of doing it, then use Mr./Mrs. It wouldn't be wrong or anything to tack a ma'am or sir onto the end, they'd probably appreciate it. But if they're American teachers, then Mr./Mrs. is what you say.

    Tell me if I'm misunderstanding the situation though :blushing:
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    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Yes, Ma'am is absolutely the female equivalent of Sir, regardless of the age of the woman. If a very young teacher initially finds it odd, she should get used to it. In certain environments like the military, it is universal: a 19-year-old cadet will be called Ma'am by a junior cadet, and will not feel the speaker is overestimating her age.

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    i agree with ma'am, at least for americans - i'm in my early 20s, and i feel respected when people call me ma'am. i don't really like "miss", and you're right about "madam" having bad connotations... lol!

    in any case i think your politeness will likely show through regardless of what titles you use as well.

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    Ma'am is great even when I'm 26!

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    Senior Member animenagai's Avatar
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    If these teachers are from the states, I really doubt that they'll care. I don't want to confuse you but I actually find sir/madam a little too cold for my liking.
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    Senior Member Adasta's Avatar
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    Here's an English perspective:

    At secondary school, I:
    • always called my male teachers Mr. [Surname] or Sir.

    • always called my female teachers Miss (i.e. only the word "Miss" and nothing else) or Ms. [Surname]



    The term "Ma'am" in England is reserved for women in positions of real "state" authority, for example an Officer in the armed forces or the police. "Ma'am" is pronounced differently in the US (US "mey-am"; UK "maarm") which makes it sound more informal. In England, I would never call a lady I have just met or a teacher Ma'am - in fact, it tends to make them feel rather old! A teacher, while in a position of authority, is rarely called Ma'am because she is considered to be helping you and therefore more "friendly" rather than "official", if that makes sense. However, I am sure things are different in some private schools.

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