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Source: Kumiko Nakamura,

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


MANHATTAN -- A Kansas State University student has won first-place honors at the recent 23rd annual Japanese Language Speech Contest at the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago.

The speech contest is open to all students of Japanese in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Yunhee Park, K-State freshman in pre-professional secondary education from Seoul, South Korea, won the category for participants who have had three or more years of Japanese in high school or less than one year in college. Park's speech was about Korea's Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations. She related the speech to her own dream of being a diplomat in the future.

This year, six students submitted their speeches from K-State, with Park and Kim Scaler, a junior in modern languages, Junction City, passing the preliminary round and invited to give their speeches in Chicago.

Scaler's speech, "Irreplaceable Memories," was about the importance of the family reunion.

"I am very proud of my students' excellent performances at the speech contest in Chicago. They represented K-State and the Japanese language program very well," said Kumiko Nakamura, director of K-State's Japanese language program. "I very much appreciated the format and the evaluation method of this speech contest. After each speech, one of the judges asked a question on the speech topic, and the student had to answer the question with no preparation. The format is promoting language proficiency or importance of spontaneous communication ability, which is exactly what we've been trying to do every day in class, rather than merely emphasizing the memorized accuracy."

"When I learned of the contest from Professor Nakamura, I thought I wouldn't do well because I have been learning Japanese less than a year," Park said. "However, she convinced me that I could do it if I wanted to. At the hotel in Chicago, she practiced with me until it was really late. I think she has played a great role in this trip for me."

Park said the contest experience has encouraged her to continue learning Japanese.

Although Scaler didn't place in the competition, she enjoyed the experience.

"It was quite an experience, being able to watch other Japanese language enthusiasts -- young and old alike -- working their hardest to present their thoughts and ideas in their second -- and perhaps even third -- language," Scaler said. "There were many opportunities to meet with and speak to these other students, creating ideal situations for further conversation practice.

"Participating in this contest has inspired me to delve further into my Japanese studies," she said. "Seeing that there are job opportunities even in the Midwestern United States for knowing Japanese is highly encouraging, as I wish to attempt to form a career out of my language skills learned here at K-State."