On Sunday I attended the 7th Annual Toyama English Students' English Presentation 2006, which is just a really important sounding name for a speech competition. This is a big deal for the Japanese students of English and for the JET ALTs that are supposed to help them win.
All of the best English students at each school in the prefecture are selected to compete in one of three categories: recitation, speech, or research presentation. Emily's school had one student doing a recitation, two students who wrote speeches, and four students who worked together on a research presentation.
The kids all worked on their speeches for weeks, and like I mentioned before, both ALTs at the school helped them. I'm not sure of everything the ALTs did to help the kids, but I know that Emily recorded her own voice giving each speech, so that the students could practice and listen to a native speaker giving the speech.
It must have helped, because not one of her kids went home empty handed.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Sunday was a really fun day. One of Emily's third years met us at Toyama Station in the morning and then spent the whole day with us. I won't mention any names, because I want to keep it anonymous, but this kid is amazing. She spent the 2004-2005 school year in Ohio, so her English is mind blowing. She talks just like an American high school kid; It's a little unnerving.
Even though it was Sunday and even though she wasn't competing in the speech contest, she wore her school uniform. This wasn't particularly out of the ordinary, since kids wear their school uniforms every day of the week, but it did lead to some funny situations with the JET ALTs.
A typical conversation went something like this:
JET: "So are you competing in the competition today?"
Student: "No, I'm just hanging out. I came to watch."
JET: "Your English is unbelievable! So why are you wearing your school uniform?"
Student: "Because my school is the best school and I'm proud to wear it."
It made me laugh because the ALTs always express aggravation whenever a Japanese person compliments them on their Japaneseness, which is a word I just made up to describe the ability to speak Japanese, use chopsticks, and eat gross food. They were doing the same thing to this student, they just didn't realize it.
The first presentation we watched was the recitation by one of Emily's first years. There were five or six different recitations that the kids could choose to recite, but one was inevitably favored over all of the others. As a result, the audience was treated to the same recitation over and over and over and over. This year's most popular recitation was a narrative by a person dying of cancer and giving advice on how to lead a happy life. How uplifting!
The speeches were a little more interesting. Each student wrote thier own speech on a topic that interested them. One of Emily's students talked about the recent earthquake in Pakistan and the international community's response. The other student talked about the responsibilities that developed nations had towards developing nations.
We tried to watch all of Emily's students' presentations, but one of the speeches conflicted with the research presentation, so we had to choose between the two. We chose to watch the speech.
And now, drumroll please, pictures:
Want an explanation for the Yebisu Black advertisement at the top of this post?
After the speech contest several of the JETs, Emily, her student, and I had dinner at my favorite okinomiyaki restaurant. After we ate, Andres Papa, in his amazing English accent, ordered a second beer by saying, "Yabisu Black, onegai shimasu." It was one of the best moments of my life.
Tags: speech contest, japan, JET, yebisu black