Thursday, April 30, 2015

[374] MTSU says ‘yookoso’ (‘welcome’) to Japanese speech contestants April 4

MURFREESBORO — MTSU students hope to be told “yoku wakarimshita” at the eighth annual Tennessee Area Japanese Speech Contest.

“Yoku wakarimashita” means “I understand you perfectly” in English, but the contest is conducted totally in Japanese to test the students’ skills at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.

The competition is slated to start at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 4, in the State Farm Lecture Hall of the Business and Aerospace Building. The event is free and open to the public.

Students from nine universities, including MTSU, will be assessed on their grammar, pronunciation, memorization and time management as they recite original speeches for the judges.

At the beginner level, students will give orations of between three and four minutes. At the intermediate and advanced levels, students will have between four and five minutes to deliver their speeches, but they also will have to answer questions from the judges at the conclusion of the speeches.

“Typically, those who are able to handle their speech well and do well on the Q and A are those who are getting more points,” said Dr. Priya Ananth, an associate professor of Japanese.

The stakes are high. The grand prize is round-trip air fare for two to Japan. Other winners will receive dual-language electronic dictionaries, portable DVD players and multifunction centers.

Enrollment in Japanese language classes soared in the 1980s as the Japanese economy boomed and Japanese companies built plants in the United States. However, Ananth said a different kind of boom is underway now.

She said the motivation for enrollment now comes from a generation familiar with
Japan’s contributions to pop culture, including animation, fashion and video games.

“We’ve had students who have already been steeped in Japanese culture before they come to MTSU,” Ananth said.

The challenge for professors is to turn that passion for leisure pursuits into tangible skills that will attract employers who need Japanese-speaking workers.

“Once they start doing the language, they realize that maybe they can convert that passion, that obsession into something career-related,” said Ananth.

In addition to MTSU, participating institutions include: East Tennessee State University; Maryville College; the University of Memphis; Murray State University; the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville, Martin and Chattanooga campuses; and Vanderbilt University.

The MTSU Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures collaborates with the Consulate General of Japan in Nashville, the Japan-America Society of Tennessee and the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute in presenting the contest.

Corporate sponsors include Mitsui USA Foundation, United Airlines, Middle Tennessee Japan Society, Bridgestone America, Mr. Japanese, Nissan North America, Brother International, Toshiba America Information Systems and the Japan Foundation.

For more information, contact Ananth at 615-898-5357 or

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