Americans, Japanese breach language barriers

Americans, Japanese breach language barriers

by Lance Cpl. Nicole Zurbrugg, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan
U.S. Marine Corps

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Matthew C. Perry Elementary and High School students and local Japanese students shared their native language skills at the 54th Annual Japanese and English Speech Contest at Iwakuni Sinfonia in Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 8, 2015.

The Japanese students presented their speeches in English and M.C.  Perry students delivered theirs in Japanese before a panel of five judges. Sponsored by the Japanese American Society on Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, this speech contest helps promote a better understanding and friendship between Americans and Japanese.

Javier Martinez, director of the Japanese American Society, said the best thing American kids can do after arriving to Japan is learn Japanese.

“Learning the language opens many doors for children to gain experiences and learn the culture,” said Martinez. “Speaking in front of people also helps elevate their self-esteem.”

Speech contestants competed in either their grade group, beginners, or advanced section. Makaiya Harris, first place winner of the advanced group, said this is her first time winning anything.

“When I first moved to Japan nine years ago, I spoke really good Japanese, but then I started going to an American school where no one spoke Japanese, “said Harris. “So this was a little challenging for me. I think it’s good for kids to learn Japanese because it helps us make friends by breaking down barriers.”

Japanese students are taught English in school, but M.C. Perry students had the help of Japanese speaking tutors when writing these speeches. Each contestant wrote their own masterpiece that judges critiqued for voice control, fluency and hand movements.

Kawamorita Sho, a Japanese speech contestant, said his teacher encouraged him to sign up for this contest because he enjoyed learning English in school.

“I think learning English is fun, and I want to grow more confident in speaking the language,” said Sho.

Martinez also said his goal is to get more Americans to participate in the contest because it gives a better understanding of both cultures and fosters new relationships.

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