Monash Arts scoops awards at the 50th Japanese Language Speech Contest in Victoria

Last month, eleven Monash Arts students participated in Victoria's 50th Japanese Language Speech Contest. Conducted in partnership with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Melbourne, this speaking contest celebrates Australia’s love of Japanese language and culture and the strong ties between Melbourne and its sister city, Osaka. With an incredible eight Monash Arts students taking home prizes, the contest also captured the quality of Japanese studies at Monash University and the talent and commitment of our students and teaching staff.

Amongst the major prize winners was Ryan Shaw (pictured right), an Arts/Law student majoring in History and Japanese studies. Ryan took home the Melbourne-Osaka Sister City Award, which includes the opportunity to participate in an internship with a member company from the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a trip to Osaka as an ambassador from the City of Melbourne. His winning speech charted his grandparents’ journey from China to Australia, and how studying the Japanese language helped him connect with his family’s history.

‘My grandparents are Chinese, but my family kind of lost the ability to speak Chinese over generations. Because my family has been in Australia for so long, it means we’ve also died in Australia. We go to the graves a lot and pray to our ancestors. All those graves are written in Chinese, and until recently I’ve never been able to read them.

‘One of the Japanese written alphabets is made up of Chinese characters. As you go along and learn Japanese, you eventually learn Chinese characters

and what they mean.

‘Now, I can go to the graves and look at the characters and say, ‘I recognise these ones’. I can read and understand the words and feel the full weight of what they mean. That’s incredible.’

After picking up Japanese as a teenager, Ryan was inspired to study the language seriously after a two-week exchange to Japan during high school. ‘I watched students who were one or two years older than me being able to speak Japanese really confidently and competently and I thought, ‘Damn, that’s cool. I want to be able to do that.’

‘During uni, I also did an exchange to the Netherlands. I met people studying their second, third or fourth language, and it was just really cool.

‘There’s a thrill from speaking another language, and speaking it well.’

At Monash Arts, Ryan’s commitment to gaining fluency in Japanese is supported by a group of passionate and ‘seriously entertaining’ academic teaching staff. ‘As students, we all know how much they care. I’ve had some really amazing teachers – Jason Jones, Naomi Kurata, Shimako Iwasaki.

‘They’re always willing to help. With this competition, they showed up to listen to us go through a practice run, they read through our work and took the time to give it attention and make tiny corrections. That meant a lot.

‘I’ve really enjoyed the classes. It’s consistent and you can see that you’re improving. It’s always fun to show up to class.’

Congratulations to our Monash Arts participants and winners, including:

Tian He: Intermediate 2, 1st Prize

Bihong (Angelina) Xie: Introductory 2, 2nd Prize

Georgie Kirchman: Proficient 2, Audience Prize

Zahra Whiteman: Advanced 2, 2nd prize

Ryan Shaw: Advanced 2, Melbourne-Osaka Sister City Award

Wenqi Zhao: Advanced 2, Best Research Prize

Jiaying Shi: post-Advanced, Keiko Hongo Prize and 3ZZZ Prize

Cynthia Leung: Post-Advanced, Keiko Hongo Prize

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Japanese studies

Bachelor of Laws (Honours)/Bachelor of Arts

Bachelor of Arts