Contestants Talk about A Variety of Topics
32nd Japanese Language Speech Contest
• Thirty contestants competed in the 32nd Annual Japanese
Language Speech Contest held at the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago’s
Japan Information Center on March 17, each talking about unique cultural
and learning experiences.
• In his opening remarks, Consul General Naoki Ito said to the contestants that they represented hope for the future of Japanese education in the U.S. “In fact, the merit of studying Japanese is bigger than you can imagine. The U.S. has stronger bonds with Japan. The people from both nations are closely connected through business with trade and investments as well as pop culture. I’m sure your hard work you put into studying Japanese now will be paid off in the future. For example, Professor Michael Bourdaghs at the University of Chicago was the winner of the very first Japanese Speech Contest,” CG Ito encouraged the contestants.
• According to CG Ito, about 170,000 American people were studying Japanese language last year, and the number has been increasing. On the other hand, there was a shortage of Japanese teachers, and his Consulate office has been working with the Chicago Mayor’s office and CPS and that will bring at least five new teachers from Japan in August.
• University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student Lauren Singer was awarded the Grand Prize for the speech titled “Japan's Indigenous Peoples and Endangered Languages.” She received a round trip ticket to Japan donated by Japan Airlines.
Singer’s speech was as follows:
• Unfortunately, the same thing happened in Japan. Although there are 400,000 Okinawans still speaking the Okinawan language, the number of speakers has decreased. In Ainu society, only 10 people are able to speak their own language.
• If you see that an endangered language is disappearing,
you want to help to save it. I really think so. I want to go to Hokkaido
or Okinawa before those languages in the regions are lost and help with
saving those languages.
• Singer has majored in linguistics in her college. In the post-contest interview, she said, “I don’t know the details of my ticket that I won, but that’ll be great. I’m able to get to Hokkaido or Okinawa. I really, just personally, love languages. I really want to use linguistics to help people.”
• The Sister City Osaka Award went to Carissa Seo, an Oakton Community College student, who presented a speech titled “My Mother's Hardwork.”
Seo’s speech was as follows:
• After I became a high school student, my mother one
day asked me what career I wanted to take. I was fond of anime, so I said
that I want to be a voice actor for anime. Then my mother said, “You should
take a job which gives you an easy life rather than thinking of an unrealistic
career.” Since then I hadn’t talked with my mother for long time.
• I became a college student, and one day, I overheard
my mother talking to my father. She had an injury on her wrist, and her
doctor said that she needed to take a rest for a month at least, but she
was saying, “I have to continue to work for my family.” My father was
• Seo received a round trip ticket to Osaka and two-week
home stay in Osaka arranged and donated by the Chicago Sister Cities International
• In addition to the awards above, the contestants received the First Prize, the Second Prize, the Third Prize, the Fourth Prize, JASC Award, JAL Award, IATJ Award, Bonjinsha Award in each category, and the Chicago Shimpo Award was given to the second and third category contestants.
• The annual event, co-organized by the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago, the Japan America Society of Chicago and the Chicago Sister Cities International Osaka Committee, provides Japanese-learning students with a testing ground for their language skills.