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あなたはいい先生です。not an interesting teacher

2 years ago
My students always give me interesting questions which make me realize how our Japanese mentality is deeply related to our language.

The other day, one of my students asked me if he could say, "あなたは面白い(おもしろい)先生ですね。”meaning "You are an interesting teacher." in Japanese. However, if you say like above, it means, "You are a funny teacher." Then he said, "But interesting should be translated as おもしろい。”

Interesting also can be translated as 興味深い(きょうみぶかい)"intriguing" but this also doesn't describe "a teacher". Generally speaking, we don't really say, someone is 興味深い。If you say someone is interesting in Japanese, it sounds a bit rude and abrupt.

Then I was discussing this issue with another really high level Japanese student who had been living in Japan for many years. Her opinion was exactly the same as mine. We should just simply say, "あなたはいい先生ですね。”"You are a good teacher." to describe someone "interesting". I know it might sound boring but this will be the most natural way of describing an interesting teacher who, my student meant, was someone different from others in a good way.

It's almost rude to give such a subjective opinion to your own teacher in Japan (it sounds like it anyway if you use 興味深い)and also we are all brought up to keep harmony with all others so standing out or being different from others is not regarded as an ideal behavior to have. But in the West, generally being different (and being interesting) is a good nature to have.

I think that's why, we don't really use 興味深い as a complimenting expression in Japan. There are so many things we can't directly translate between Japanese and Western languages. However, this is the most ”興味深い”"interesting" part of leaning different languages. Yes, we can use this word to describe a fact, but not really people. So, please be careful. (^^)