I am working in an educational organisation and we often co-operate with other institutions from other European countries, e.g. in EU-wide projects.

Very often we have to write applications for European funding, and in those applications we have to present ourselves. Quite commonly, someone presents his organisation in terms such as

XYZ is a vocational training centre in ABC. It employs 350 trainers.

Each time I read this I feel an urge to correct it to "teachers" because for me, "trainers" sounds like sporting shoes.

Is the use of "trainers" in this context (for people like teachers, instructors, educators, etc.) appropriate, or does it sound silly and should be avoided, and what would be the best alternatives?

Explanatory addition after a number of comments received: It seems, for many native speakers my question is unintelligible. A common comment is that context made it perfectly clear that instructors are meant, not shoes. Yes of course, context makes it clear, I understand this. However, in my native language (German) in good writing style you would try to avoid unwanted ambiguities anyway, just in order to not irritate the audience by offering options for malevolent association. There are words with multiple meanings that are "harmless" in that sense where you wouldn't mind, but other words, especially when one of the meanings is something low or mean, would be subject to more caution. I just thought the quite contrasting meanings of "trainers" - "experts usually honoured" vs. "shoes usually smelly" - might constitute such a stark contrast in English, too, and therefore the expression might be advisable to be avoided. - But many comments seem to suggest that this is not the case.

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    Use of trainers here is fine, there is no ambiguity, because it has been made clear that the centre specialises in vocational training. Also you can't employ a trainer (in the salaried business sense of the word). – Gary Apr 10 '17 at 14:27
  • Gary The second part of your comment would be even more relevant than the first one. Do I correctly understand that "trainers" implies that they are not employed (they are not salaried employees), although they may get paid as freelancers, or could likewise be volunteers? – Christian Geiselmann Apr 10 '17 at 14:30
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    Note that this amiguity only exists in British English. In America, we call the shoes "sneakers", "tennis shoes", or "athletic shoes". This sense of "trainer" is totally unknown here. – Barmar Apr 10 '17 at 18:23
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    Instructors may be a better choice than trainers. – Xanne Apr 11 '17 at 2:58
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    ' you have to avoid unwanted ambiguity anyway! My question was, does this apply here. ' Given that mopst of us missed that that was your question, and that your Explanatory addition seems to suggest that the concern is inadvertently insulting people who provide training, I think you might have the basis for a different and more generally useful question. Possibly something where you start with a clear explanation of the quality of being 'low or mean', give the 'trainers' issue as an example of it. Then people can answer in a way that helps others in the future. In the meantime I'm VTC. – Spagirl Apr 12 '17 at 10:50

It's fine, although I'm inclined to say that "teachers" teach and "trainers" train. If you're learning a knowledge-based subject like History, you'd have a teacher, and if you're learning a more physical skill like welding or Karate, you'd have a trainer. Of course, that's not a rule and probably just the way I think of it, but if you're learning to be a teacher, you'd have a trainer (mostly because I suppose "Teacher Training" sounds better than "Teacher Teaching"!).

Training shoes are for wearing whilst you're training your body- the root's the same. Teaching shoes would be something different. :D

It's one of those things where context counts for a lot and luckily, where the two are hard to get confused.

Now a trainee train driver, training with a trainer wearing trainers... eyeboggle

  • Which raises the additional question: the "trainers" we are speaking here about are definitely not trainers for sports. They are personnel involved in providing lessons and practical training for students in vocational schools, sports excluded. So, is "trainers" an appropriate term for them? Or is "instructors" generally better in this context? – Christian Geiselmann Apr 11 '17 at 9:21

We manage absolutely fine in English using "personal trainers" to mean gym staff who work one-on-one with clients, and we often shorten that to "trainers". And that's in a situation where trainers are appropriate footwear. Context is everything, but the distinction is clear enough even in quite subtle cases. Examples:

  • "I left my trainers at the gym" is always going to mean shoes.
  • "I met my trainer at the gym" refers to a person.
  • "Please don't put muddy trainers on the benches" is prety clear too.

The fact that shoes normally come in pairs and gym instructors work solo helps. Of course you can force ambiguity:

  • "I got distracted by a pair of trainers in the gym".

But most people wouldn't naturally refer to a pair of people unless there was no ambiguity. A simple "two" would work. Of course you can pair up for an exercise such as in a boxing class; then you could have a pair of trainers demonstrating an exercise. They would probably be wearing trainers. And t would still be clear.

Incidentally in your example a "training centre" could employ "staff" (though of course this includes support staff etc., or "intructors". "Teachers" could be flat out wrong if they don't have a (classroom) teaching qualification.

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