Question about the teacher-student tutear rule
Spanish textbooks mostly say that one uses the familiar form when talking to family members, close friends, children and pets. There seems to be an additional unwritten rule that teachers and professors speak to their students in the familiar form irrespective of age. Im sixty years old and my considerable younger Spanish professor addresses me in the familiar form and Im expected to address her in the formal manner.
While I dont find this offensive, I sure find it curious. German has formal and familiar forms too and the rules are basically the same except for this teacher-student rule. When I was taking adult level courses in Germany I dont ever recall being address in the familiar form by a teacher. I believe students in Germany are address in the formal manner in high school and thereafter.
Does anyone know if this protocol is unique to the United States? Do professors in Spanish speaking countries address adult students in the familiar form? Are graduate students addressed in the familiar form?
Students addressing their teacher in the formal tone is just a matter of showing respect for their academic standing and not always due to age differences.
So I think that you are obligated to address your teacher in the formal (unless they suggest otherwise). If you feel uncomfortable that a younger person is addressing you with the familiar form, then just mention your feelings to them. I'm sure they will have no problem switching to the formal tone. After all, it is just a matter of courtesy. Neither of you is going to be hauled off to jail for infractions of social etiquette.
I probably shouldnt have interjected my personal experiences into this question. This is not a personal problem, but a question about culture and the use of the familiar versus the formal in teacher-student communications in Spanish speaking countries. Basically the question is whether teachers or professors address adult students in the familiar form in Spanish speaking countries.
Thanks to all who responded to this question, but Im looking for an answer to the basic question.
I suspect that it depends a great deal on the teacher's "style" and the type of "atmosphere" that the teacher wants to maintain. Some prefer a more "formal" atmosphere (not necessarily stuffy but one of mutual "respect"/politeness) while others like to be more "chummy". In any event, I think that the tone is usually set by the teacher.
In most of northern South America, the "familiar" seems to be used indiscriminately. I have a friend, young enough to be my son, who addresses me in the informal, even though I'm his mentor. I don't know about a formal classroom setting, but it seems that everyone is generally comfortable with the "familiar". Stores even use it in advertising to their clients.