The 28th Japanese Language Speech Contest
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The 28th Japanese Language Speech Contest was held on March 22 at the Japan Information Center, Consulate General of Japan at Chicago, and one interesting speech followed another.

Generally, people easily judge other people, and individuals with disabilities or special needs are judged as less. Montana Pfeifer’s brother has special needs due to speech disability, but he has a gift for sports statistics and can tell you the number of home runs hit by Derek Jeter and other players. He is also a gifted, all-around athlete and is going to participate in Special Olympics year round.
Even with his brother as an example, Pfeifer judged those people as well. After becoming a coach for Special Olympics, Pfeifer saw that he was terribly wrong in his assumptions. There have been several times he has witnessed an athlete fall in track, and the runner in the next lane has always stopped to help his fallen comrade to cross the finish line. It is truly the best example of sportsmanship.
There are also talented people with autism, blindness, and other handicaps. Pfeifer said, “It is easy to classify things, but people should take care in doing so. Remember, it is easy to judge, but it may be done erroneously.”
The above is a summary of Montana Pfeifer’s speech “Rainman goes to the Olympics”. He received the 2nd Prize in the third category.

Alyssa Wall lost her long-time friend earlier this year. The friend never contacted Alyssa after she entered college, and Alyssa felt that she was forgotten. A year later, the friend suddenly sent her an e-mail saying, “During break, let’s do this together. Let’s do that together.” Alyssa didn’t understand her sadness and anger and talked to her friend, but they had a falling out.
During a time like this, what’s a person to do?
Alyssa’s father advised her to read a book, which described five love languages, ways of conveying love. They were Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Gifts, and Acts of Service. Her love language was Words of Affirmation, while her friend’s was Quality Time because she had many plans to get together. If you use your love language to a person who has different one, it might not work well.
Alyssa believes her boyfriend’s language is Acts of Service because he cooks meals and brushes snow off her car. So she cooked for him, then he said, “I love you.”
The key for good human relationships is to rethink the “Golden Rule,” which says that you should do for others what you would prefer. Alyssa said, “Instead, do for others what they would prefer.”
The above is a summary of Alysa Wall’s speech “The Five Love Languages”. She received the second Prize in the fourth category.

At the Speech Contest, 39 participants competed against each other. For students and the general public, who are studying Japanese, this annual contest is one big goal. It is sponsored by the Consulate General of Japan at Chicago, The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago, The Japan America Society of Chicago, and The Chicago Sister Cities International Program Osaka Committee.
The speech contest is divided into four categories according to age and length of time studying Japanese. After the speech, a judge asked questions in Japanese. Even if the speech was in fluent Japanese, one cannot memorize answers to the questions. Some of the speakers were so nervous that they could not answer, but others were able to express their opinions eloquently.

This year, a variety of topics were brought up by the participants. Phillip Bachman, who won the Grand Prize, spoke about “A road to happiness”.
Bachman attended Waseda University in Tokyo for 11 months. During his stay in Tokyo, 79-year-old Sanae Kazama cooked meals for him every day, and he was moved by her way of life.

Kazama was born in 1935 and lost her mother when she was 11. Since then, she had to do the household chores as the oldest daughter. After graduating from high school, her father sent her to a home-economics technical college to become a good wife. A year after finishing the college, her father arranged her marriage with a man who was 20 years her senior. No objection was allowed her at that time in Japan.
When her husband passed away at her age of 56, she opened her house for exchange students because she wanted to continue to serve meals to somebody. She still vividly remembered the Tokyo Air Raid by the U.S. in 1944; thus, Bachman thought that it would be difficult for her to accept American students like him. Kazama, however, seemed to find her happiness to serve meals to him.
She didn’t have a choice to select her way of life, but she found happiness in her life. Bachman said, “She helped me to understand something very important. Life is like a train, barreling ahead at full speed. Even if that train switches directions unexpectedly, it doesn’t mean your road to happiness is cut off.”

After he had finished his speech, Judge Mariko Moroishi Wei of Purdue University asked him, “What do you think of a woman like Kazama, who sacrificed her own life for her family?”
Bachman answered in his fluent Japanese, “I’m a young man in this era, so I have to do what I want to do. If I become married and have a child too early, I can’t pursue my dream. Kazama didn’t have a choice, but she found her happiness. It would be difficult in the present day.”
He received a round trip ticket to Japan offered by JAL and health gear offered by Omron.

Bachman answered Shimpo’s interview and said that he was a video-game otaku (geek) and stayed in his home all the day when he was eight years old.
One day, his father asked him where the game was from. He answered, “Japan.” Then his father said, “Why don’t you study Japanese?” and put him in a summer camp Mori no Ike, which meant a pond in a wood in Japanese.
His father had lived in China for 10 years and was fluent in Chinese, while his mother spoke Italian. His parents knew about the importance of having the second language.
He was anxious about joining the camp, but he enjoyed it very much. He looked forward to participating in the camp every year. He took Japanese classes in high school and studied in Niigata Prefecture. During his stay, the great earthquake and tsunami happened in 2011, so he had to return to the U.S. When he became a college student, he finally could go to Japan again to attend Waseda University.

Cormac Badger, who won the First Prize in the fourth category, also spoke about his experience in Japan while he was studying in a college in Tokyo.
Being white, tall, with long hair and beard, Badger drew attention from people. One day, a Japanese cameraman took his photo and published it in a fashion magazine. After that he was offered a modeling job and did it once. He tried hard to create his own image, but he turned into a commodity for everyone.
He said that the influence of advertising was becoming a serious issue in the U.S., too. People long for anorexic models, impossible body types, unhealthy weights, men with perfect muscles, and clear skin, but most of them can’t achieve their ideal style or beautiful skin. Obsession leads to anxiety and lack of confidence.
They can’t change their body types, but can change their thoughts. Badger said, “You should be able to try anything that you like. But not when it comes to advertising. From my modeling experience, I learned that everyone creates their own images. I have pride and confidence in my current self.”

Head Judge Nobuko Chikamatsu, Professor at DePaul University, commended all the speakers’ hard work and said, “Maybe you inspired us because we learned so much today about human relationships, social issues, and so many different topics.”
She introduced an exhibit at DePaul organized by former Japanese students and documentary film “Tohoku Tomo”, produced by the member of JET alumni Association. She said, “It is wonderful to see the students coming back to our community or campus and giving us these kinds of wonderful inputs and opportunities for our students to learn about Japan and their relations to Japanese people.”
Chikamatsu encouraged the participants to continue to study Japanese, and said, “Your knowledge will be used to build better a Japan or community in the future.

Phillip Bachman
Cormac Badger
Montana Pfeifer