Baylor Sophomore Qualifies for State Japanese Language Speech Contest

  • News Photo 3969
    Justin Elms making his speech
  • News Photo 3968
    from back row, Success Sumpaongoen, contestant; Yuko Prefume, lecturer in Japanese; Devin Kraft, contestant; Paul Vaughn, contestant; Justin Elms, contestant; Front row, Kaori Omori, Japanese exchange student; Nhu Lee, contestant; Rachel McCutchen, contestant; Saki Nakashima, Japanese exchange student.
Feb. 22, 2007

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

After placing second in the regional Japanese language speech contest in Dallas, Baylor University's Justin Elms, a sophomore University Scholar from San Antonio, will advance to the state Japanese language speech contest Saturday, March 3, at the Westchester Academy for International Studies in Houston.

"I am extremely excited," Elms said. "I already have learned so much by competing in this [last] contest, and I can always stand to learn more."

He first became interested in Japanese cartoons - anime - as a child, but later he "fell in love with the culture as a whole and decided that [he] wanted to learn as much as [he] could about Japan, language included."

Elms was selected to compete in the regional speech contest based on his classroom performance, according to Yuko Prefume, lecturer in Japanese at Baylor. He and Prefume met together around every other day for a few weeks to prepare for the contest in Dallas.

Each contestant at the regional competition was required to recite an original self-composed speech, not previously recited elsewhere, memorized and in Japanese.

"My speech is about growing up in America as an otaku (a nerd who is obsessed with Japan, particularly anime, manga and video games) and discovering the striking negative stigma about otaku that exists in Japan," he said. "Basically, it was the only topic I could come up with that seemed interesting to me and pertinent to Japanese."

The actual competition Elms described as nerve-wracking, saying that to be judged by three native Japanese speakers while he "massacred their language" was "more intimidating than [he] imagined." But clearly his use of the Japanese language wasn't so bad, because not only did the judges understand it, they also thought it was good enough for him to win second place.

"When the audiences laugh from the students' speeches, the students realize that they are really communicating with the native speakers," Prefume said. "You can see the thrill of joy on the faces of the students."

Elms will again recite his speech at the statewide competition and will be judged on pronunciation, grammatical ability, overall ability, content of his speech, delivery, creativity, enthusiasm and understanding.

The purpose of the annual Japanese language speech contest is to bring attention to the Japanese language and promote the knowledge and understanding of Japan by Americans.

The 18th annual contest is sponsored by the Japan-America Societies of Texas in cooperation with the Japanese Teachers Association of Texas and the Consulate-General of Japan in Houston. The event also is organized by the Japan-America Society of Houston and supported by the Japan Foundation and the Japanese Language Supplementary School of Houston.

Winners of the state contest will qualify to participate in the national speech contest in Los Angeles as representatives for the state of Texas.

As far as Elms' plans for future use of the Japanese language, he intends to study in Tokyo during the next academic year and would like to one day teach English in Japan.

"Eventually, though, I want to work in the videogame industry, so there would be a wealth of opportunity for me to get a bilingual Japanese/English job with any number of international companies," he said.

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