Baylor Students to Participate for First Time in Japanese Speech Contest

Feb. 8, 2007

by Angela Best, student newswriter, (254) 710-1961

Three Baylor University students have been selected to participate in a Japanese speech contest held by the Dallas Japanese Association and Japanese Teachers Association of Texas Saturday, Feb. 10, in Dallas. This year's contest is the first year for college students to be eligible to compete.

Justin Elms, a sophomore university scholars major from San Antonio; Devin Kraft, a sophomore film and digital media major from Roswell, N.M.; and Success Sumpaongoen, a junior biology/ pre-med major from Khon Khan, Thailand, were chosen to attend the conference based on their classroom performance.

"I talked to several students who I thought may be capable of presenting speeches in Japanese," said Yuko Prefume, lecturer in Japanese at Baylor. "Among them, I asked the three most enthusiastic students to participate in the speech contest."

The contest consists of poetry recitation and free speeches, all memorized and in Japanese. Free speeches must be original, composed by the contestant and not previously recited elsewhere, according to the contest regulations. Every contestant must also speak for at least two minutes, but no more than three minutes.

Elms, Kraft and Sumpaongoen have been preparing for the contest for the last few weeks by memorizing their speeches and working with Prefume on pronunciation and articulation.

"To me, what these students are doing is remarkable given the fact that they have never been to Japan, they have been studying Japanese for less than two years and they are doing this in Waco, Texas," Prefume said.

Around 76 students from both high schools and colleges will be participating in this year's contest. Most of the contestants come from large cities like Dallas and Houston where there are Japanese communities which offer many cultural events and learning experiences throughout the year, according to Prefume.

But many people, at Baylor and in the Waco community, are not even aware that a Japanese program is offered at the university, Prefume said. Currently there are around 90 students taking beginning, intermediate and advanced levels of Japanese, and while there isn't a Japanese major offered at this time, students may earn up to 28 credit hours of Japanese language courses.

The top two winners from each category at the contest in Dallas will move on to the state contest March 3, and winners of the state speech contest will qualify to participate in the national speech contest in Los Angeles.

For more information about the contest, contact Prefume at 710-4283. More information about the Baylor Japanese program can be found at http://www.baylor.edu/japanese/.

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