How to Address People in Formal and Informal Settings – Part Two

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A few years back, I got in touch with one of my high school teachers on social media.

When I told him to say hello to my favourite English teacher back in Manchester, he said, “I’ll be sure to tell Sheena McGowan.”

Her name is Sheena? I thought. I never knew! What a lovely name indeed!

I’m very conservative so I can never imagine calling Ms McGowan by her first name! She will always be Ms McGowan to me.

In today’s episode, which is part two of How to Address People in Formal and Informal Settings, I talk about the differences between addressing teachers and lecturers in the UK versus in Malaysia.

You can also listen to this session on Apple PodcastsSpotify or Google Podcasts.

In schools in the UK, it’s generally Mr or Mrs/Miss/Ms + surname. At university, students can be as informal as calling lecturers by their first name. This creates a feeling of closeness between them.

In a multicultural country like Malaysia, we do use first names but after titles.

A first name can be accompanied by a title like Mr/Sir/ Encik for male teachers, and Miss/Cikgu/Puan for female teachers. Some English teachers in Malaysia are even called “Teacher”, which may not be common practice in Western countries, but is over here.  

At university, we would never think to call our lecturers by their first name. Instead, we show respect by addressing them with titles such as:

  • Dr/Prof [first name] for Malays, e.g., Dr Shafawati, Dr Azmin
  • Dr/Prof [first name/family name] for non-Malays, e.g., Professor Wong, Dr Carol 
  • Madam [first name] for Malay married women, e.g., Madam Halimah, Madam Faridah


  • Madam [family name], e.g., Madam Kwan 
  • Miss/Ms [first name/family name],  e.g., Miss Aisya, Miss Tan.

Whatever we call our teachers and lecturers, I’m sure they have played an important role in your life and have shaped the very person you have become. Thus, it’s important to address them appropriately. 

Have a listen to today’s episode and let us know if you remember your favourite teachers and lecturers. 

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Hi there!

We’re Azimah, Amnah and Aisya from Malaysia. We created My English Matters as an online platform to help people improve their English.

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