York students victorious at National Japanese Speech Contest

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York students from the Japanese Studies Program in the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics (DLLL) of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) garnered top prizes at the 34th Canadian National Japanese Speech Contest (NJSC).

NJSC contestants, who are the first-prize winners in each category of the year’s respective provincial Japanese speech contests, travelled from all across the country to compete together. This year, 25 contestants in four levels of proficiency faced off at the national contest, which took place at the Toronto branch of the Japan Foundation on March 26. The three York students who finished in prize-winning positions were:

  • Grand prize (advanced first): Risha Pelchat (AP/JP2010)
  • Intermediate first: Ava-karie Hislop (AP/JP2000)
  • Beginners third: Arman Ahmed (AP/JP1000)

Pelchat – a translation student who also won the grand prize at the Ontario Japanese Speech Contest (OJSC) at the University of Toronto on March 4 – flawlessly delivered her speech entitled “Me? ‘Mademoiselle’? ‘Xiao Jie’?” in which she emphasized the importance of small gestures that could evoke feelings of “gender euphoria” among transgender people.

Hislop, a School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design student, presented her speech “Current Artists and Social Media.” She spoke about the negative influence of online reactions to, and evaluations of, art works, arguing that artists should – above all else – strive to maintain their integrity, originality and creativity.

Ahmed, a computer science student, delivered his speech titled “Break the Shell!” in which he used the metaphor of turtles and dragons to illustrate the experience of coming out of his shell following a long-COVID hiatus and discovering new friendships by taking up competitive dragon boating.

York students with awards won at 2023 National Japanese Speech Contest
From left: Ava-karie Hislop, Noriko Yabuki-Soh, Risha Pelchat, Arman Ahmed and Eri Takahashi

“York students in the Japanese Studies Program have won many top prizes at both the provincial and national speech contests in the past. This year is no exception,” said DLLL Associate Professor Noriko Yabuki-Soh.

Yabuki-Soh, along with department colleague Associate Professor Norio Ota and faculty members Kumiko Inutsuka, Akiko Mitsui and Eri Takahashi, coached the students leading up to the national contest. Yabuki-Soh also served on the 2023 NJSC’s organizing committee.

“We are so proud of those students who worked so hard for this competition,” she added. “I am sure they will endeavour to become ‘ambassadors’ of Canada to Japan in the future.”