The Englishman who came as an actor and stayed as a grasshopper“Please don’t overdo it,” begged the producer, but Matthew Readman couldn’t help himself.
“If I say ‘I am happy’ plainly, won’t it be boring?” the 29 year-old Englishman asked. “If I say it with my hands high up, open my eyes wide as well as my mouth, it’ll be easier to understand.”
That hyperkinetic energy has made Mr. Readman the popular co-host of the Educational Broadcasting System’s children television show, “Ding Dong Dang Kindergarten.”
Mr. Readman appears from Monday to Wednesday in the show’s English learning corner “Hi, Everyone!” to deliver English phrases to the show’s young viewers.
The Englishman has become astoundingly popular among Korean youngsters for his comic and dynamic touch when delivering his lines. Mr. Readman sometimes mimics the sound of an animal that might appear in a story, or else dances about. When he introduces a word, he doesn’t just say it, but gestures madly, waving his arms about in order to hold his often attention-challenged audience.
The children calls Mr. Readman mettugi ajeossi, or in English, “Mister Grasshopper,” a pun based on the similarity of his first name to the Korean word for grasshopper.
Mr. Readman even has a fan club ― and it’s more than just children. Their mothers, too, are very fond of Mr. Readman. “I’m not a celebrity, but the mothers recognize me anywhere and they think of me as a teacher,” says Mr. Readman. “So I try my best to be a good example.”
Mr. Readman has long been interested in performing, and studied drama as an undergraduate.
“At first it wasn’t easy to adapt,” says Mr. Readman of his current job. “Television acting is different from stage acting. I had to put in a lot of effort, but soon I was really enjoying what I was doing.”
Mr. Readman made his first visit to Korea in 1996 to see his sister, who was teaching English in Jeonju, North Jeolla province. After touring the peninsula for two months Mr. Readman went back home, but he kept thinking about Korea. After auditioning for EBS-TV in 1999, Mr. Readman joined the children’s program in the spring of 2001. Mr. Readman’s popularity skyrocketed the moment he started the “Hi, Everyone!” part of the program. Because of a visa issue Mr. Readman did not appear on the show in the first half of last year, and soon the station received many calls asking where he was.
The show’s staff praises Mr. Readman’s ability to deliver English to the children so expressively.
But Mr. Readman’s true talent comes from his love of the little ones. “I’m not an entertainer. I love children a lot and I want to give them all I’ve got,” he says. “Adults? They’re complicated.”
by Lee Sang-bok