York students win top prizes at Ontario Japanese Speech Contest

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The 41st annual Ontario Japanese Speech Contest (OJSC), where six York undergraduates secured podium positions, was held at the University of Toronto on March 4 and marked the first time that the event returned in person since 2020.

In total, eight students from the Japanese Studies Program, in the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics (DLLL) at the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), competed in front of a large crowd that was undeterred by the inclement weather earlier that day. Three York students will advance to the national contest.

Those eight students collectively qualified for three competition categories: beginner, intermediate, and advanced level speech. Of the eight students, the six who were awarded for their speeches were:

  • Grand prize (Advanced first): Risha Pelchat (AP/JP2010) for “Me? ‘Mademoiselle’? ‘Xiao Jie’?”
  • Intermediate first: Ava-karie Hislop (AP/JP2000) for “Current Artists and Social Media”
  • Shinkikai-Sagamihara City Award (Beginners first): Arman Ahmed (AP/JP1000) for “Break Out of Your Shell!”
  • Intermediate second: Chengsi Ma (AP/JP2000) for “The Unknown Master of Ghibli”
  • Beginners second: Maximos Yao (AP/JP1000) for “Summer Harvest”
  • Intermediate third: for Afia Fobi (AP/JP2000) for “Are you a night owl or a morning person?”
York contestants at Ontario Japanese Speech Contest

Pelchat delivered a speech on her personal struggle as a transgender woman, detailing how people’s unseemly, small gestures – such as addressing others with their preferred salutations or names – could evoke feelings of “gender euphoria.” Pelchat was awarded a return ticket to Japan as the grand prize, which she plans to use to visit the country in the near future. Ahmed received the Shinkikai-Sagamihara City Award which also provides him with a trip to Japan and opportunity to visit the City of Sagamihara and its people. Pelchat, Ahmed and Hislop will be participating in the Canadian National Japanese Speech Contest in their respective categories at the Japan Foundation in Toronto on March 26.

“The Japanese Studies program is extremely delighted by the outstanding achievements made by the York students. All of them worked so hard, and their Japanese language proficiency has improved tremendously through this experience,” says Noriko Yabuki-Soh, associate professor in the DLLL and Chair of the OJSC Organizing Committee this year.

Yabuki-Soh and department colleagues Associate Professor Norio Ota and faculty members Kumiko Inutsuka, Akiko Mitsui and Eri Takahashi coached the students leading up to the contest. Inutsuka and Takahashi also served on OJSC’s organizing committee.