Naha adopts Uchinaguchi in employment test

October 22, 2012 Masanao Chinen of the Ryukyu Shimpo

On October 21, the Naha Municipal Office announced that it will incorporate greetings in Uchinaguchi into this year’s employment test interviews. This is a part of the “Haisai, Haitai Campaign” in which staff members are encouraged to greet people in Uchinaguchi at the Municipal Office. By adopting Uchinaguchi in the employment test the Municipal Office aims to encourage young people to use the Okinawan language.

It is rare for a municipal office in Japan to adopt a local language in its employment interviews, and this is the first such attempt in Okinawa Prefecture. Mayor Takeshi Onaga instructed officials to consider the adoption of Uchinaguchi in the employment test based on opinion that surfaced when the City entered into dialogue with the City Culture Association.

The Municipal Office will send a letter to the candidates sitting the employment interview asking them to prepare a self-introduction in Uchinaguchi to deliver at their interview. For those who are not familiar with Uchinaguchi, the City will provide some examples, such as “Haisai gusuyo, chuuganabira? (Hello, how are you today?), and Nife debiru (Thank you).”  

Meanwhile, to ensure fairness in the examination, intonation and fluency in Uchinaguchi will not be assessed. An official from the Municipal Office said, “It is acceptable if they indicate a willingness to use Uchinaguchi once they are hired.”

Professor Masahide Ishihara of the University of Ryukyus (Language Policy) said, “It will be a good chance for the people taking the test to learn Uchinaguchi. Implementation of this approach in the Naha Municipal Office may encourage other local governments and private companies to do the same. I hope that they engage in training projects that encourage the use of Uchinaguchi after they take up employment.”

A total of 1817 people applied to sit the 2012 employment examination for the Naha Municipal Office. The written examination was conducted on October 14. The second examination, which includes an interview, will be held on November 17 and 18 for administrative positions and on November 24 and 25 for preschool teaching positions.

(English translation by T&CT, Megumi Chibana and Mark Ealey)

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