The 29th English Recitation Contest for High School Freshmen, sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Kobe (JASK), was held on Nov. 23rd, Japanese Labor Thanksgiving Day. From the standpoint of preventing the spread of Covid-19, the event was held online again this year.
The preliminary round was divided into two sessions, morning and afternoon. 45 students from 45 high schools participated, and they performed their recitations with enthusiasm. The recitation speech for this round was “English is a tool to get results”, which was given by Marianna Pascal, a communication trainer in Malaysia.
Before the start of the contest, Mr. Motoi Oyama, president of JASK (and chairman and CEO of ASICS Corporation), gave a video message with an opening address on behalf of the Japan-America Society of Kobe. The judges were Ms. Yuan Lei, a coordinator for international relations of Hyogo Prefecture; Ms. Joy Sung, a member of the International Department of Kobe City; Mr. Kei Moritani, vice president of the Junior Chamber International Kobe for 2022; and Ms. Aika Yasui, a member of JASK.
The students all performed wholeheartedly with many gestures, and the competition was very intense. After all of the performances were finished, Mr. Shigeki Matsuda, one of the advisers of JASK, gave a closing address. We took a group photo, and the contest came to an end. The finalists was chosen through a rigorous judging and selection process, and the final contest will be held on Jan 23rd, 2022.
This year is also the very first collaboration between Kobe and Washington State’s Japan-America Societies. As a part of this, Ms. Karin Zaugg Black, a past chair of the Japan America Society of the state of Washington (JASSW) joined us for this contests. Kobe and Seattle (a major city in the State of Washington) will celebrate the 65th anniversary of their sister city affiliation in 2022. In the future, JASK and JASSW will together hold events and other activities to contribute to the building of friendly Japan-U.S. relations.
■Opening Address by Mr. Motoi Oyama, the President of JASK
The English Recitation Contest for High School Freshmen sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Kobe is now in its 29th year. The purpose of this contest is to understand the history and culture of Japan and the U.S., as well as the differences and similarities in the way of thinking between the two countries. When I was in junior high school, I also participated in an English recitation contest. It’s been 2 years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people were forced to live with restrictions on their day-to-day lives. Today, I hope that you will show what you have been practicing to the fullest.
The recitation theme for this year’s preliminaries is the speech, “English is a tool to get results” by Marianna Pascal. English is still believed to be a difficult skill to master, which is why the simple and clear statement “English is just a tool” sounds powerful. I hope that you all do not be afraid to fail and use English as a tool, and will grow up to be a wonderful person who will be active globally.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the U.S. Consulate General Osaka-Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe City and other supporting organizations, sponsoring companies, Junior Chamber International Kobe, and many others for your understanding and support, which have made it possible for us to continue to hold this event for so many years. I would also like to express my heartfelt respect to the parents, families, and teachers who always give guidance to the students. Good luck, everyone!
■Judge, Ms. Yuan Lei’s Comments
First of all, thank you very much for taking your time and coming here, especially during this public holiday so “お疲れ様でした.” I am sure that you have spent an enormous amount of time and effort preparing for this, so once again thank you for taking an interest in learning English, my native language. During my job as a CIR, Coordinator for International Relations, for the Hyogo Prefectural government, I work a lot with ALTs, Assistant Language Teachers. Through talking with them, I found that it is so true that there are two types of communicators, and how you engage in a conversation and your attitude really matters. It is my biggest hope that you are not only memorized the speech but also taken something from it. I hope that you will have more courage to engage in English conversations because it takes a lot of courage to do something like this, a recitation contest. Most of all, I hope that you had fun because just like the speech said, in the real world it is not about accuracy or correctness. Try to relax and have fun when talking in English to people. Thank you.
■Judge, Ms. Joy Sung’s Comments
Thank you all for taking the time to practice and truly memorize the contents and your performance. Thank you for taking your time on the holiday to be here. Before I started working at Kobe City, I used to work as an assistant language teacher, an ALT in Kobe City, I taught at junior high school and elementary school. The one thing I really wanted to emphasize when I was teaching English was having fun with English and enjoying the experience sharing about yourself in a different language. It eventually would be what helps you improve your English going forward. So far, very impressed by all of the recitations today and I look forward to hopefully seeing some of you in the finals later. お疲れ様でした。
■Judge, Mr. Kei Moritani’s Comments
Thank you, everyone, for your hard work today. This was my first time to participate in this contest as a judge, and I was impressed since I could tell that you have worked so hard. Some of you may reach the final and some may not, but I really would like to thank you for your hard work. Keep up the good work! Thank you.
■Judge, Ms. Aika Yasui’s Comments
Good job everyone. You must have worked really, really hard for this contest, and some of you maybe feel that you could have done better, but don’t worry about that because just as the speech said, perfection is not the key but it’s how you use the language, and that will lead you to the success. Simply participating in the event like this would be the assets in your future, so keep on learning. Thank you.
■JASSW Ms. Karin Zaugg Black’s Comments
Hello! My name is Karin Zaugg Black, and the past chair of the Japan-America Society of the State of Washington.
Washington state and Hyogo Prefecture are sister states and Seattle and Kobe are also sister cities. I also serve on a board of the Seattle-Kobe Sister City Association. Next year would be the 65th anniversary of our sister city relationship.
Congratulations on being done with your speeches. Nice work. You can feel so happy about the good effort that you put into those speeches. Our students at Japan-America Society are studying Japanese. And next year we would love to do some cross cultural exchanges between you and our students and have some fun as part of a sister city activities next year.
Thank you so much for letting me come to your event. Good luck with your English study and I look forward to seeing you in another event soon. Thank you.
■Closing Address by Mr. Shigeki Matsuda, Advisor of JASK
Thank you to the high school students who participated in this contest. I would also like to thank the teachers and families for supporting them.
Thanks to the support from many people, this is the 29th time for holding this recitation contest. When I learnt English, the important thing was using correct pronunciation. However, when listening to today’s speech, I realized that how you communicate and how you convey your thoughts have become what is important. Also, I was impressed that the native English teachers try to encourage Japanese students to have that experience.
This is a contest, so we need to put scores and make selections for the final, but I hope that you will treasure this one page of your life, your freshmen year of high school, and learn something from it.
Finally, the main purpose of this contest is to deepen the friendship between Japan and the U.S., and learn the culture and philosophy of the U.S. directly through English. I hope that this contest will be valuable for your life in the future.
Thank you very much.