Highlights from this year's Japanese Speech Contests in London

Earlier this year, two annual Japanese speech contests were held in the UK. Both featured a range of different applicants, of various ages, speaking on a wide spectrum of challenging topics. We spoke to the organisers of each contest to hear about this year's highlights.

The Ninth Japanese Speech Contest for University Students
The Japan Foundation, London

The UK space industry, vampire folklore, and the arcades of Japan as a meritocracy were among the many fascinating topics presented at the Finals Day of the 9th Japanese Speech Contest for University Students, which was held on March 1st at SOAS, University of London.

What’s special about the Japanese Speech Contest for University Students is that students of all levels of Japanese can enter, as there are three categories that cover the entire range of Japanese ability, from beginner to advanced. It’s truly inspiring to see the passion that all of these students have for using Japanese to communicate their thoughts and feelings about the world.

Take Gen Nen Ho, for example.  He’s a 3rd year student of Medicine at King's College London, and also the winner of the Individual Presentation Category (aimed at post-beginner learners of Japanese) in this year’s contest for his very animated and intriguing presentation entitled “The Mythical Cambridge.”   

“When the opportunity to take part in a speech contest came to me, I took it without hesitation,” said Gen Nen following the contest. “I believed it would be a great chance to test my proficiency in Japanese and of course, to meet people who share the same interest in Japanese... Despite being a medical student, I spend much of my time learning Japanese. It feels so good to be able to converse in Japanese and understand anime without the need for subtitles.”

Take Gen Nen Ho

Giulia Surace
The winner of the Speech Category was Giulia Surace, a 4th year student of Japanese and Politics at SOAS University of London, who demonstrated excellent Japanese language and presentation skills through her thought-provoking speech on Political Indifference in Japanese Youth. She won a return air ticket to Japan, a Japan Rail Pass and £700 for her outstanding performance. “Being able to take part in such a challenging competition was the greatest reward after studying Japanese for four years,” commented Giulia. “My Japanese teacher encouraged me to apply, as I had already taken part in the Group Presentation Category during my first year. I remember watching the Speech Category participants and thinking that it would be amazing to be able to do it someday.”

More information, including details of sponsors and the full list of prizewinners, can be found on the Japan Foundation London website.


The Sir Peter Parker Awards for Spoken Business Japanese
JETRO London, SOAS University London

The Sir Peter Parker Awards for Spoken Business Japanese took place on 12 February 2014 at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

The Awards was established in 1990 by the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO London) and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. The late Sir Peter Parker played a significant role in the speech contest which is the reason why his name has been used for these Awards for the past 24 years. He approached both JETRO and SOAS after he wrote a report in the early 1980s on UK-Japan trade relations, which emphasised the importance of understanding not only the Japanese language but also Japanese culture. 

There were eight Finalists selected from 27 applicants at the final round of this year’s contest. The winner was Mr Mihai Scumpieru, who talked about “Globalisation and the challenges faced by Japanese companies”.  Although he currently works in Belgium he took up the challenge and flew to the UK to take part in the Awards. In his speech, he talked about some of the challenges faced by Japanese companies in an increasingly globalised and competitive world. Being of Romanian nationality and having studied and lived in Japan for more than a decade he now works in a Japanese company in Europe. His Japanese is that of a native speaker and the context of his speech shone through his multi-cultural experiences. He sounded very confident - although he later confessed he couldn’t believe that he won! During the Q&A where he was challenged by the Interlocutor with a few ‘mean’ questions to which he replied in fluent Japanese whilst injecting a bit of humour which made the audience laugh. Many of those who had listened to his speech noted from the outset that Mr Scumpieru was justifiably the winner of this year’s Awards.

The 8 finalists

Mihai Scumpieru
Next February we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Awards. In order to mark this important milestone the organisers hope to receive as many applicants as possible. Further details will be published this autumn however, if you would like to know more about the Awards, please contact The Sir Peter Parker Awards Secretariat, c/o Language Centre, SOAS, email: sppa@soas.ac.uk, Tel: 020 7898 4828. The information is also available here.