It Was No Contest


Yesterday I traveled to Inazawa (稲沢) for what I thought was going to be a Japanese speech contest. In actuality it was more of a speaking event, there was no judging of the event and everyone received an envelope with a gratuity inside.

Nine speakers from seven countries participated. The order was: Colombia; Peru; China; Brazil; Brazil; China; Ecuador; Korea; and America. The first speaker has only been in Japan for about 10 months and will return shortly. Many people who come for just one year don’t bother studying the language because they have short-timer’s syndrome, so I was very impressed that Jorge had put forth the effort to study and was willing to engage in a public speaking event.

The second speaker seemed to have trouble, but stuck it out with great fortitude. Later I chatted with him and he could communicate quite well. I imagine he was stressed during the speaking. Also, the language in a speech is different from a chat. The first Chinese speaker memorized her entire speech. I was technically impressed, but the feeling is not as warm when it comes from the brain rather than the belly. On Friday or Saturday, I had the seed of fear planted in my mind, when I was asked if the speech had to be memorized. I knew there wasn’t time for me to commit it all to memory and knew such kind of events do occur in Japan.

The first five speakers have all been in Japan a short time, I was very impressed that they would participate. Some of their courage may have come from their teacher pushing them to participate. She has some connection to the organizers of this event. The remaining speakers have been in Japan longer; of them, I was the newest at less than four years. One is hoping to become a Japanese teacher in China. The other two are married to Japanese men and expect to live here forever.

“My Wife is a Foreigner” (奥さんは外国人) is a TV program covering human interest here. They follow the daily life of a couple and do interviews about how they met, what troubles they’ve had, and so on. Our speaker from Ecuador was on that show last year and I think she was the most interesting person they’ve shown.

Writing a speech in Japanese proved to be a difficult process. I paid my teacher about 10,000 yen for the time she spent assisting me. Often I would show her a sentence I wrote and she would say, “What does that mean?” Eventually we would get the ideas hammered into understandable sentences. I posted the text of my speech on my much neglected Japanese lesson blog.

When the emcee was opening the event, he announced that everyone would be giving three minute speeches. We all gasped a little at that. I had been told to prepare a five minute speech and apparently the speaker on my right hadn’t been given a limit and prepared a ten minute talk. All of the speeches ran a bit long, but mine was right at five minutes. I felt a little disappointed when the announcer apologized for my speech being so short. Funny how fast perceptions can change.

We received bookstore gift cards for our honorarium. Time to buy some more books. Probably some Japanese study books would be good.


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