Seven students from York University competed at the 36th Annual Ontario Japanese Speech Contest held at the University of Toronto on March 3, with two students earning first-place titles and heading to the national competition later this month.
A total of 39 contestants from institutions across Ontario, including the University of Western Ontario, the University of Toronto St. George, University of Waterloo and McMaster University, gathered to compete at four levels: beginners (17 contestants), intermediate (12 contestants), advanced (9 contestants) and open (1 contestant).
Of the seven York students, three competed in the beginners category, one competed in the intermediate category and three competed in the advanced category. All are currently enrolled in JP1000 (Elementary Modern Standard Japanese), JP 2000 (Intermediate Modern Standard Japanese) and JP3000 (Advanced Modern Standard Japanese) at York.
Two students from the beginners category and three students in the advanced category won a prize for their speech.
Andrew Christensen, a first-year student in the East Asian Studies program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LAPS), beat out 16 other contestants to finish in first place in the beginner category, which is considered the most competitive category. He convincingly and fluidly delivered a speech, entitled “Jinsee ni wa choosen ga hitsuyoo da” (You Need Challenges in Life), making an intriguing connection between his experience as a track-and-field athlete and a Japanese language learner. Among the first-place winners, Christensen was chosen to be the first recipient of the Shinkikai-Sagamihara City Prize, receiving an official invitation to visit the city of Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, with a ticket to Japan.
In the advanced category, Gabby Ricker was awarded first place for her speech “Kau-beki ka, kawazaru-beki ka” (To Buy or Not to Buy). The second-year history student in LAPS conveyed her opinion on the consumption-centered society, based on her work experience at a consumer electronics shop.
Three out of six special prizes were awarded to York students.
The Special Effort Prize was awarded to Samsam Hassan (beginner category), a third-year biology student in the Faculty of Science, for her speech “Bunka no shoototsu” (Culture Clash), which urged the audience to think about unique food culture, and contrasted how differently Japanese and Somali eat rice (i.e. plain vs. with bananas).
Fernanda Cherini (advanced category), a third-year Global Political Studies student in LAPS, was also awarded with a Special Effort Prize for confidently delivering her speech, “Tsuyoku naru” (Becoming Strong), which conveyed how she overcame her experience of being bullied at school.
Hanisi Samuel (advanced category), a Japanese minor student majoring in environmental studies in the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES), was awarded a Special Effort Prize for his speech “Menuu no naka no sentakushi” (Choices in a Menu), in which he shared his realization about how ordering food at a restaurant resembles how one makes a decision on life.
Two other students representing York University were: Hyoseong Kim (beginners category), a fourth-year Administrative Studies Finance Stream student in LAPS who delivered the speech “Hana yori ryoori” (Cooking over Flowers); and XinYi Zhao (intermediate category), a third-year philosophy student in LAPS who delivered the speech “Aru ‘chuudoku’ kanja no kokuhaku” (A Confession of an ‘Addict’).
The Ontario Japanese Speech Contest was opened with remarks by the Chair of the Organizing Committee, Professor Noriko Yabuki-Soh (York University), followed by a welcoming speech by Consul-General of Japan, Takako Ito, who noted that 2018 marks the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Canada.
An explanation by Chief Judge Stephen Kennedy, barrister and solicitor, ensured that contestants were evaluated on the quality of their Japanese language delivery as well as the content of their message. By the end of the day, a total of 14 prizes were awarded.
As first-place winners in their categories, Christensen and Ricker have been invited to compete at the 2018 National Japanese Speech Contest at the University of Alberta on March 24.
For more information, visit the Ontario Japanese Speech Contest website.
Submitted to YFile by Kiyoko Toratani, coordinator, Japanese & Korean Studies Program and associate professor, Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics