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American bank worker makes the grade with Okinawan TV

Date Posted: 2012-07-20

Being on live television can be a nerve-wracking experience, but being on live television and speaking in a foreign language?

Matthew Brunner found out just how much so it could be, and also how much fun it could be once past the jitters. He’s survived a live experience with Ryukyu Broadcasting Company, appearing as a special guest on a program saluting Okinawa’s reversion 40 years ago. Brunner, who works as a bank staff member on a military installation, has been studying Japanese for three years with Global Village, and first learned of the show from school management.

RBC was designing a television program with foreigners debating Okinawans, all in Japanese language. For that, they were looking for a foreigner with passable Japanese skills. With almost three years in the classroom, Global Village had faith in Brunner, who speaks business language in Japanese, and can even use Kanji characters and send email in Japanese.

Everyone on the television show was 40 years old, the same age as Okinawa reversion. Okinawa calls those people “Fukikko”, meaning those born in 1972. “Fukki” means reversion in Japanese, and “ko” means kids. Of course, Matthew is 40. During the show, he talked about what 40-year-olds are like in America, and what his perspectives of Okinawa are from a foreigner’s look.

“At first I had hesitation,” says Brunner. “It was a real time discussion in Japanese, and answering in English was not an option. I was assured though, my Japanese was at an appropriate level for the discussion, and noted that my recent passing of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test N3 was evidence.” He called it a fun experience, saying he enjoyed “sharing my opinions on the topics and making new friends” The idea of discussion changing cultures and lifestyles, and the disappearing Okinawan dialect, and why the Okinawa divorce rate is so high were all challenges.

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