That's why I'm so proud of all the students. English isn't easy for most of them, yet they each memorized a one-page story or speech in English. I can't imagine memorizing a whole page of Japanese and then reciting it -- focusing on my expression, intonation and pronouncing everything correctly -- plus doing gestures. There's no way!
Last week, I went to an English-speaking contest in a nearby town, as one of five judges. I had a good time judging the contest and was impressed by those students as well. It was harder to judge than I thought it'd be. Although judging was fun, I was happy to not have that pressure and to just watch the Kuji contest.
I was especially interested in watching three girls from Okamawe Junior High School compete because I helped them practice their speeches. For the last two weeks, I have spent an hour and a half almost every afternoon/early evening working with them. (So I couldn't be a judge at the Kuji contest because I would have been biased.)
I found that the hardest letters for the girls to pronounce in English, as well as many of the other speakers at the contest, are "th," "r," and "w." For example, the word "everything" usually sounds more like "everysing." Often during the contest, words that started with the letter "v" sounded more like they began with the letter "b."
Each of the girls I worked with had her own "trouble words" that I had to pronounce over and over again. One of the girls had problem pronouncing the word "problem," and the way she said the word "wrong" was wrong. Oh, the irony!
During the speech contest on Thursday, my girls made me proud! Here's a picture of me with them, following the contest:
The girl beside me was one of the students who went to Franklin last January with Yamadate! She recognized me from the dinner at Franklin College, where I spoke about coming to Kuji. So now she's seen me speak in public, and I've seen her speak. And the girl on the left won first place in her division, making me very happy!
I enjoyed listening to all the different stories and speeches. My favorite part was the end, when the winners were announced. Except the announcer lady called them "weiners" instead! I about lost it when she ended the contest by saying, "Congratulations to all of these weiners!" :)
She proves my point that English is not always easy to pronounce for non-native speakers!This is Amber Hall, the funky building with an auditorium where the contest was held. I've been wanting to go inside since I arrived in Kuji, and I finally had my chance. :)