Mt. A students placed in all divisions, one student advances to the national competition
On March 12, a group of Mt. A students gathered in the third-floor theatre of the library to compete in the Atlantic Canada Japanese Language Speech Contest. Joining a Zoom call hosted by St. Mary’s University, students competed in four different divisions (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Open) and presented speeches on a variety of topics. Mt. A students performed well in all categories, with Christina Martin placing second in the beginner division, Xiahanwei (Vivian) Xu winning the intermediate division, Henry Lee placing third in the advanced division, and Tai Christie placing third in the open division.
This is one of many regional contests held across Canada. Winners from each of the categories advanced to the Canadian National Japanese Speech Contest that was hosted by the University of Calgary on March 26.
“I feel very honored to be able to head into the national contest,” said Xu. “I am very grateful to the university and Yoshizawa sensei [Professor Akiko Yoshizawa] for helping me get this precious opportunity to meet Japanese learners from all over Canada.” Xu is a second-year French Studies major with a minor in Japanese Studies. She has been studying Japanese for two years. “I love the pronunciation and writing of Japanese,” she said. “I think Japanese pronunciation is very gentle, when speaking Japanese will let a person have a warm feeling in the heart.”
This is Xu’s second time competing at the regional contest that she says has helped her observe how her grasp of Japanese is developing. Her speech, entitled “An Unforgettable Memory,” was inspired by a profound personal experience. “In my speech, I expressed my wish that everywhere of the world could be filled with kindness and love by describing my experience of being helped by a pregnant woman who was still carrying her baby on her back,” she explained.
She initially decided to participate in the competition to improve her Japanese skills, and found that she also learned a lot about what makes a speech successful: “the content of the script, the language fluency of the speaker, and moreover, the resistance of the speaker to various pressures and distractions in the process of delivering the speech.”
Xu participated in the intermediate category at the Canadian National Japanese Speech Contest this past weekend, which she described as “an unforgettable experience.” She compared her experiences between the regional and national levels. “Compared with the regional Japanese speech contest, the participants of the national contest had more diverse backgrounds,” she said. She explained that it was interesting to hear the “unique charm” of each of the students’ content and style of speaking. “Regardless of the regions or categories, the contestants’ enthusiasm of Japanese language remains constant,” she said. Xu said that participating in this contest has helped her learn more about the Japanese language, and also has reminded her of her love for the language. “I will keep my love for Japanese and study hard as always,” she said.
Christina Martin, a second year English student who is minoring in Japanese, just started learning Japanese this year and placed second in the beginner division at the regional contest. Martin wrote her speech about her rabbit, Jiji, and how he supported her through the COVID-19 pandemic. “I had wanted to challenge myself by learning a new language in my time at Mt. A,” she said. “So far it has been challenging but rewarding.” This type of competition was a new experience for her. The opportunity to participate was presented as an optional part of a Japanese course. “I had decided to push myself outside of my comfort zones and try to challenge myself whenever I could,” she said. “I’d never given a speech before, but I was determined to give it my best.”
Henry Lee, a fourth-year commerce student, has been learning Japanese since the fall of 2019. He is not currently enrolled in any Japanese language classes and entered the regional contest “purely out of personal interest.” Lee explained that one of the things he likes about learning Japanese is that it shares some similarities with his first language, Korean. “I also like the fact that learning the language allows me to access a wider array of media and interact with some of the Japanese students here in Mount Allison more closely,” he said. Competing in the advanced division, Lee placed third with his speech about learning Japanese during the lockdowns and recommendations for language learning. “I felt nervous but excited at the same time to demonstrate what I have been learning to a wider audience,” he said.
It was “a humbling experience,” according to Lee. “They say that the more you learn, the more you realize how much more you do not know. I really think that it applies to things such as languages,” he said, explaining that he sees these contests as valuable for academic and personal growth. “It’s very difficult to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, but the experience you gain from doing something new is well worth it,” said Martin. “I’m so grateful that I took this chance and went for it.” She also said the experience was a reminder of “how rewarding it can be to just give it your all and put aside fear of failure to try something new.”
“I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to Professor Yoshizawa first of all, who gave us the opportunity to participate in this event and for her helpful feedback and suggestions for the speech contest,” said Lee. Lee also wanted to thank a “special friend” who helped him organize his thoughts and prepare for the contest. Xu expressed gratitude for the opportunity to practice her language skills and connect with other Japanese learners, and for the opportunity to share her experiences. “I want readers to know that I appreciate each and every one of them for reading this content,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to share my experiences with others.”