Students compete, win in Japanese speech contest

(WITH VIDEO) – Several Murray State students received awards this month, including the grand prize, as part of their participation in the seventh annual Tennessee Area Japanese Speech Contest.

This was the University’s seventh time traveling to Middle Tennessee State University and competing.

While students have traditionally performed well, last year taking home five of the 10 awards, this was the first time a Murray State student won the grand prize which includes $500 in cash and a round-trip ticket to Japan.

More than 40 students from 10 universities participated, including the University of Tennessee, the University of Memphis and Vanderbilt University, in one of three tiers corresponding to their ability to speak Japanese: level one being the highest.

Yoko Hatakeyama, professor of Japanese, along with Masayo Kaneko, also a Japanese professor, helped the students prepare to perform their speeches in Tennessee.

Hatakeyama said both she and Kaneko have worked hard since establishing the Japanese major at Murray State in 2010 to build a good reputation for the University’s Japanese program, and competing well in the Tennessee Area Japanese Speech Contest has helped to accomplish this.

“This year’s and last year’s successes were not due to chance,” Hatakeyama said. “Winning these awards this year is evidence that our Japanese program has been getting stronger and I am really proud of my students and the program.”

Contestants had to prepare and memorize a speech three to four minutes long on any subject to be presented to a panel of judges in Japanese.

Those participating in levels two and three also had to answer questions after their presentation from the judges

Kyung Rin Kim, junior from Bunsan, South Korea, won the grand prize out of all tiers and students participating.

Jiaying Gong, senior from Sandong, China, won first place in level one and Jessica Alford, junior from Mayfield, Ky., won second place in the same level. Both also received prizes.

Kayla Johnson, sophomore from Erlanger, Ky., received second place in level two competition and Linying Wang, junior from Beijing, China, was chosen for the Consul General Award in level two.

Alford said at first the thought of competing was intimidating, but the atmosphere of the contest was motivational.

“Taking Japanese, just like any other language is a lot of long, hard work, so getting second place was a confirmation of all of my hard work,” Alford said. “It was a lot of preparation and practice, getting my intonation right, and most of all finding a good pace.”

Hatakeyama said Murray State will return to compete next year and hopes to bring further accolades to the University and the Japanese program.


Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer