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Airman uses video games to bridge language gap

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Hugo Delgado
  • AFN Courtesy

Staff Sgt. Benjamin Raughton, a photojournalist stationed at Kadena Air Base, sits at his desk at the 18th Wing Public Affairs office. Some mementos sit atop a shelf above him: a line of hand-held video games. Today, his job is to make sure a batch of photos are properly edited.


“Public Affairs is like a lake that’s five miles long and three inches deep,” says Raughton. “You learn a little bit about a lot of different things. I do everything from writing articles, producing photo and video content, public relations, and web design.”


A bell rings, indicating someone entered the building. Raughton, a Tennessee native, smiles as he greets the Japanese customers.


“I just walked over, asked them if I could help them and they told me in Japanese that they wanted an official photo and I was able to get them started on the work order,” Raughton said.


Prior to joining the U.S. Air Force, he was an English teacher in Japan’s Okayama and Tottori prefectures, where he was hired by a private English academy.


His ability to communicate in Japanese with the local population stems from the video games that now rest in his office.


“There are games, but there’s also educational software so I thought, ‘You know what? I live here and I’ve tried my best to learn Japanese and I want to keep learning,” he said. “There was a very popular thing called the Nintendo DS. I got some games that were educational and they taught me how to write the characters in Japanese hiragana and katakana. There was another one that teaches kanji, and there was another one that was like a quiz game, and I used it to practice what I had already learned.”


The lessons from the video games taught Raughton the basic fundamentals he would later use to enhance his mission in the Pacific region.


“When a Japanese visitor wants something or has a question, I can help out even if they don’t speak English, so I’m able to provide some services that can still bridge that language gap,” he said.


When Raughton started teaching English more than 10 years ago, he never imagined he’d use those skills to strengthen U.S. partnerships in the Air Force. He no longer uses video games to learn Japanese, but enjoys spending time interacting with locals and doing street photography in Naha.