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Chicago Shimpo
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.
• The program was divided into three categories: 1st for elementary and junior high school students; 2nd for high school students; and 3rd for college students.

• 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:
• There have been endangered languages, Ainu and Okinawan language, in Japan. The endangered language indicates that the population of speakers of a certain language has declined, and no one may speak it in the future.
• In the U.S., Native Americans began to lose their own language since Europeans had immigrated into the new continent. The children of Native Americans were brought in the English schools and punished if they spoke their own language.
• When the children of endangered language speakers become unable to talk with their family members about old tales and songs, they would lose their own way of thinking. Moreover, there would be a high risk to lose their own culture.

• 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.
• To save endangered languages, you are not necessarily going abroad. There are many endangered languages in the Midwest. Don’t you think that all the languages and all the ways of people’s lives on the earth are wonderful? I believe that if all the people in the world actively work on saving endangered languages, those languages and their culture don’t have to die.

• 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:
• My family consists of my mother, father, elder brother, and I. My mother has worked for 12 hours a day since I was a small child. When I became a middle school student, I was aware of my family situation that was not affluent at all. We had no family travel to California or somewhere else. I had no piano or violin lesson. I was dissatisfied with my family.

• 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 knew that my mother was born in a poor family, but I blamed her because she didn’t try to understand my dream. I also regretted being born in a poor family.

• 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 unemployed.
• I asked my mother about her wrist condition, then she said, “You study a lot at the college, then find a good job, and have a happy life.”
• I was choked up. I thought, “I owe what I am today to my mother.” I had a comfortable home even if it was small. I had a wonderful mother. I should have thought about what I had rather than what I didn’t.
• I would like to cherish what I have, such as my family, friends, and my blessed life, so I can overcome any hardship and meet my mother’s expectation of me.

• Seo received a round trip ticket to Osaka and two-week home stay in Osaka arranged and donated by the Chicago Sister Cities International Osaka Committee.
• In the post-contest interview, she said, “I’ll tell my mom, ‘I’m going to Japan!’ She told me that she wanted me to get back with an award, so I can tell her, ‘I did it.’”

• 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.

30 contestants pose for a photo with Consul General Ito and Judges after the speech Contest.

Grand Prize winner Lauren Singer (C), Consul General Naoki Ito (L), Kenya Yamada,
Vice President & Regional Manager of the Japan Airlines.

Sister City Osaka Award winner Carissa Seo (L) and Kimiyo Naka,
Chair of the Chicago Sister Cities International Osaka Committee.

Chicago Shimpo Award winners: from left, Stephen Cannell and Marisa Wernick