March 17, 2021
30th Alberta District Japanese Speech Contest
On March 7, 2021, the 30th Alberta District Speech Contest was hosted by the University of Alberta. Although the contest was held virtually over Zoom, the speech contest still held the same values of integrity and perseverance.
This year, 14 students from the Alberta and Saskatchewan regions competed in the Speech Contest, 7 of which were representing the University of Calgary’s Japanese Program from the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures, and Cultures.
Every year, students get the opportunity to choose their topic and compose a unique speech based on the Japanese language skills they’ve learned with the support of their Japanese instructor. Then at the speech contest, they can enthusiastically show off their hard work.
Since this year’s contest was done online, the procedure of the contest was slightly different than the previous years. However, there were some perks to this online format. As the speeches were done online, the audience had a clear view of the speakers and could observe all the emotions and expressions the speakers conveyed. The online format allowed the audience to see the participants in a new light.
Congratulations to this year’s contestants who took the extra step towards their education in Japanese during these difficult times. From the University of Calgary, 1 student won second place and 3 won first place in their category.
The Beginner category had 2 contestants present from the University of Calgary. Arman Murani presented his “Festival of Lights (Diwali)” speech. He delivered a speech about one of the major festivals celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs, a beautiful celebration where people light up both the interior and exterior of their homes and share gifts.
Lavender Wong won second place in the beginner category with her speech, “The Distance Between the Earth and the Moon”. She touched on the safety protocols of Covid-19 and the rifts it has made between people. She advocated that “A positive vocal expression can create a little happiness in one’s daily life and motivate an individual to stay positive, which supports a healthier life.”
In the Intermediate category, Kelly Ma presented her speech, "Potatoes”. The speech compared the similarities between potatoes and people; both are symbols of love and knowledge. Through her compelling speech, Kelly was able to win first place in the Intermediate Category.
For the Advanced category, the University of Calgary had 3 strong contestants: Brenna Barnett, Casey Ostrander, and Tiffany Chang.
Brenna Barnett’s speech, “Suddenly, It Changed!” spoke about how her life as a university student, which quickly and unexpectedly transformed in the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic. Her speech touched on the new means of communication, allowing students to socialize with their peers while being safe. “If we continue to change the way we think and do things, anything is possible!” she exclaimed.
Casey Ostrander presented the perspective of identity in a diverse society. In her speech, “Who Am I?” she spoke of her own experiences and how others perceive her in contrast to her views. Casey stressed the topic of one’s individuality and the importance of their self-identity.
Tiffany Chang contextualized the Covid-19 pandemic and the sense of disconnection that accompanied it. However, in the modern era with the internet, new forms of connections have been formed. She pointed out that, “There’s still a lot we can do, even in these difficult times.” With her expressive speech, Tiffany Chang was awarded first place in the Advanced category.
Finally, in the Open category, first place winner Niran Pon spoke on an unexpected topic. His speech titled, “The Other Side of Disgust” explored the idea of idol culture. Fans of Japanese idols on the outside may seem like an awkward group of people, but contrary to appearances, there is a surprising amount of depth to an idol fan’s world. Where meaningful friendships, as well as unforgettable experiences, are created.
The Japanese Speech Contest is an amazing opportunity for students to present what they have learned in their Japanese courses. It is a chance for students to challenge themselves and strive towards better developing their proficiency in the Japanese language. Additionally, this event gives learners a chance to gain confidence in using what they have studied outside of class, as they present not only to a crowd of people but also to native Japanese speakers.
Thank you to the sponsors of this event, Consulate General of Japan in Calgary, Mitsui Canada Foundation, The Japan Foundation, Toronto and the Prince Takamado Japan Centre for Teaching and Research.
On behalf of the School and the Japanese program, we would like to extend our gratitude to the Canadian Association for Japanese Language Education Alberta Japanese Business Association. Along with the hard work of the 5 judges, Mr. Hiroaki Tamai, President of the Alberta Japanese Business Association; Ms. Keiko Yoshikawa, Japanese-Language Education Advisor, Alberta Education and Senior Japanese Language Specialist, the Japan Foundation; Mr. Kohei Sakamoto, Consul, Consulate-General of Japan in Calgary; Ms. Tamaki Ikeda, Japanese Instructor; and Ms. Yukiko Nagakura, Principal, Metro Edmonton Japanese Community School.
Thank you also to the organizing committee, Dr. Aya Fujiwara, Chair, Director of Prince Takamado Japan Centre for Teaching and Research; Dr. Hiromi Aoki, Japanese Language Coordinator, the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Alberta; Ms. Akiko Sharp, Japanese Language Advisor, School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures, University of Calgary; Ms. Hinako Ishikawa, Sessional Instructor School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures, University of Calgary; and Ms. Rei Kondo, Program Assistant, Prince Takamado Japan Centre for Teaching and Research. Their work this year was challenging, and we are grateful they were able to keep the contest running safely and responsibly.
A special thank you to the Japanese instructors Yoko Kodama, Hinako Ishikawa, Akiko Sharp, and Masako Shimada who whole-heartedly believed and supported all the participants during the Speech Contest. Their passion and encouragement pushed students to present with their best foot forward.
Once again, congratulations to all participants in this year’s Alberta District Speech Contest and best of luck to Kelly Ma, Tiffany Chang and Niran Pon on advancing to the National Speech Contest!
Please also check out the announcement and video of the speech contest posted on the Prince Takamado Japan Centre for Teaching and Research website. You can also view the video of the speech contest below.