Imperial College London

Horizons students take top prizes at 2020 Japanese Speech Contest

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Joshua and his certificate

Imperial students delivered winning presentations in the competition finals for an impressive 12th year running.

Held on Saturday 29th February, just weeks before the UK’s lockdown, the 15th annual Japanese Speech Contest for University Students took place at King’s College London to an audience of judges, key figures from the UK-Japan community, teachers, students and members of the public.

Imperial’s entrants, all students of Japanese through the CLCC’s Horizons programme, competed against those undertaking Japanese degrees at other UK universities. They appeared undaunted, however, reaching the Finals and taking the top prizes in the Presentation categories.

First Prize in the Individual Presentation Category was awarded to Joshua Wei Ken Yeoh (3rd Year Chemistry, Horizons Japanese Level 5) with his speech entitled “Materialism and Environment”.

Joshua speakingThe accomplishment was all the greater for Joshua, as someone who had observed the competition for several years, but believed he lacked the requisite skills in public speaking and oral Japanese. After choosing a subject area about which he was passionate, his hard work in researching, fact-checking, editing and rehearsing his script paid off.

Dr Yuki Tokumaru, his Japanese teacher, commends Joshua’s single-mindedness: “Whenever I commented on his pronunciation, intonation or delivery, he immediately took notes and practiced with special attention to say it more accurately next time” she observed. “I believe that this kind of steady effort, humble attitude and diligence made his speech attain the very top level, worthy of winning the first prize in such a competitive national contest”.

In the Group Presentation Category, Wendy Meng (2nd Year Aeronautical Engineering, Horizons Japanese Level 3) and Jaco Lee (2nd Year Biological Sciences, Horizons Japanese Level 2) were also selected as one of the five winning groups. Their presentation was on “bubble tea” the East Asian drink which has risen in popularity globally.

Jaco and Wendy speaking“Jaco and Wendy made the audience smile with their witty banter, humorous content and a great rapport between them. Their presentation was not only charming, but also made everybody feel like drinking a bubble tea immediately. It was definitely a great success and made us proud yet again”, notes Dr Tokumaru.   

Catching up with first prize winner Joshua Wei Ken Yeoh and Imperial’s Japanese Coordinator Dr Yuki  Tokumaru recently, they discussed what made Joshua’s speech stand out in such a tough field:

Joshua: “My goal was to convey my message such that any Japanese listener could easily understand, and it have an impact on them. If stories by Japanese artists, authors and screenwriters have taught me anything, it is the importance of the emphasis on the human element when it comes to conveying a message, and I reminded myself of that as I wrote my script. In a way, I was giving back to the culture and language that allowed me to develop and grow as a person.”

Yuki: “Joshua’s angle as a Chemistry student was unique and his anecdotes warm and funny. His speech did not advocate anything about what we should or should not do, yet his thoughts and gentle analysis on why the current situation emerged left the listener to reflect and think about this important issue deeply. I could tell from the audience’s reaction in the venue that they were taken with his speech and totally impressed by it. When he finished, I could hear many people around me praising it.”

Team Imperial 2020The Japanese Speech Contest for University Students is organised by the British Association for Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language (BATJ) and the Japan Foundation, London. The event presents an opportunity for students from the UK and Ireland to demonstrate their Japanese speaking skills. Imperial has participated since the early days of the event, winning prizes in at least one category since the 3rd Contest in 2008. Since the competition changed in 2013 so that there is no longer a category specifically for non-Japanese degree students, the Horizons students and staff have had to put in significant work to reach the finals.

“Trying to sound as close to a native as possible is one of my goals in learning Japanese, and I can’t thank Yuki-sensei enough in assisting me, and other teaching staff who gave their feedback leading up to the competition”, says Joshua. “I can look back at this experience with pride, be more confident in myself and have a better drive to learn Japanese moving forward.”

Japanese for Undergraduates – Imperial Horizons

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Cleo Bowen

Cleo Bowen
Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication