Students shine, win at annual Ontario Japanese Speech Contest

Microphone on stand

Four undergraduate students from York University earned top prizes for their language skills at the 42nd annual Ontario Japanese Speech Contest (OJSC 2024) held at the University of Toronto on March 2.

Eight students from the Japanese Studies Program in York’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics (DLLL) competed in four different categories – Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced and Open – in front of a large crowd that included contestants from post-secondary institutions across the province, sponsors, government officials, Japanese language education administrators and interested members of the public.

York University’s eight Ontario Japanese Speech Contest contestants, three student helpers and five faculty members.
First row, left to right: Giovanni Di Mauro, Hei Tung Chloe Shek, Keying Ren, Alexa Adams, Wonkyung Lee, Kumiko Inutsuka, Akiko Mitsui and Noriko Yabuki-Soh. Second row, left to right: Eri Takahashi, Secret Shields, Ariel Upiter, Binying Wang, Javier van der Westhuizen, Norio Ota, Risa Hatake and Arianna Carerra.

Of York’s eight student contestants, the four who earned awards for their speeches were:

  • Hei Tung Chloe Shek, who was awarded the grand prize (placing first in the Advanced category) for her speech titled “Views and allies of ‘young carers’”;
  • Secret Shields, who was awarded second place in the Beginners category for a speech titled “My name is Secret”;
  • Binying Wang, who was awarded third place in the Intermediate category for a speech titled “About MBTI”; and
  • Wonkyung Lee, who was awarded first place in the Open category for a speech titled “Liquor or Coffee.”

Shek, who received a return ticket to Japan as the competition’s grand prize, delivered a speech on her personal experience as a young caregiver to her disabled father, detailing how the rest of her family united and handled the situation, and how positive thinking helped her accomplish many things she did not expect.

As a result of their first-place finishes in their respective categories, Shek and Lee will go on to participate in the Canadian National Japanese Speech Contest at the Embassy of Japan in Ottawa on March 24.

Noriko Yabuki-Soh
Noriko Yabuki-Soh

To help prepare the York students for the contest, DLLL associate professors Noriko Yabuki-Soh and Norio Ota, and faculty members Kumiko Inutsuka, Akiko Mitsui and Eri Takahash coached them leading up to the big day. Yabuki-Soh, Inutsuka and Takahashi also served on OJSC’s Organizing Committee.

“It was delightful to see how those eight students, at different levels of proficiency in Japanese, worked as a team,” said Yabuki-Soh, who believes all of the eight York competitors performed at their best.

“They put so much time and effort into this when they practised their speeches in front of their peers,” she said. “Their hard work has paid off. We are so proud of them.”