Interlude (7) A Friendlier version of ‘Mr’ ‘Mrs,’ etc. (샘)
Okay, here is the point. The term ‘sem’ (샘), is a contraction of ‘son-seng-nim’ (선생님 – teacher) using a letter from each syllable block. The contraction is slightly less formal than the full rendition. Perhaps the closest translation of ‘son-seng-nim,’ and its contraction, ‘sem,’ is ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’ or ‘Miss’, etc.
And here is my ‘twisted’ analysis, a micro-rant. Though translated as ‘teacher’ either word fails to slip directly into English and presently, in British culture ‘teacher’ is both not too short of being a ‘slur’ and is a bordering on a euphemism for someone who though highly educated, professional and constantly vetted by the world’s most rigorous system, is regarded with great distrust. The same situation applies to numerous other professions – doctors, nurses, etc. Even the Korean media is learning to pick up on the distrust in which countries like Britain and America hold their teachers and subsequently use it nefariously.
Rooted in Confucian ethics, ”teacher’ (선생님 – 샘) is a term of respect with teachers and education being held in high regard – though less so if you are western. Though not perfect, the Korean education system plays a far greater role in shaping Korean society than it does in many western countries.
As someone permanently struggling with Korean these are my notes on words and phrases I find useful and which are usually not in a dictionary. Any amendments, recommendations or errors, please let me know.
© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.