UT students compete at Japanese speech contest

April 20, 2018 | UToday, Arts and Letters
By Ashley Diel

Hussain Almahmud, a senior majoring in electrical engineering with a minor in Japanese, and Rohit Kumar, a senior majoring in pharmacy and toxicology, competed at the 19th Japan-America Society of Central Ohio’s Language Speech Contest.

The two traveled last month with their speech mentor, Dr. Kasumi Yamazaki, assistant professor of Japanese, to Dublin, Ohio, where Almahmud and Kumar presented their speeches, “The Similarities Between Saudi Arabia and Japan” and “The Importance of Foreign Language in Medical Care,” against six students from other universities in the state.

Presenters were scored according to fluency, the ability to answer questions from the judges, and the content of the speech.


Almahmud has been studying Japanese for three years and first became interested in learning it after he participated in a three-week study abroad trip to Japan. After that, he decided to pursue a minor in Japanese at The University of Toledo.

“I think that participating in such a prestigious contest gave me a good learning experience of using the language in public speaking,” Almahmud said. “Also, it helped me to gain more confidence and to network with Japanese people.”


Kumar began studying Japanese during his sophomore year at UT when he learned the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Studies offered a trip to study abroad and complete an internship at the University of Miyazaki in Japan. Having always wanted to travel, he began learning the language in preparation of a potential trip there.

“It was definitely a great feeling to be selected to participate in the contest,” Kumar said. “Although I felt rather confident in my speech and the message I was trying to convey, I knew it was not going to be easy to get selected considering that there are so many other talented students with memorable topics competing for only a few spots. At the contest, all the selected students performed their speeches exceptionally well, which put a lot of pressure on me to perform at the same level.”

Kumar received the Consul’s General Award, which is presented to students whose speeches had an interesting or important message.

“To put it simply, receiving the award was one of the greatest feelings of my life,” Kumar said. “I felt a sense of accomplishment and a sense of pride in myself.

“During my preparation for this contest, I definitely felt a lot of pressure and a lot of stress; however, I would like to especially thank my professor and coach, Dr. Kasumi Yamazaki, for putting up with me and guiding me throughout this entire process,” Kumar said. “To me, this award was a team effort and without her, I don’t believe I would have been able to achieve it.”

Almahmud and Kumar both hope to continue learning Japanese so they can use it in the future in their careers.

“Being an advocate of experiential learning of language and culture, I believe it is important that we connect students with existing international communities in our own vicinity,” Yamazaki said. “I believe that engaging with the community and academic organizations provides a valuable experience for students; in particular, active involvement helps students network with various field practitioners, often providing opportunities for students to go beyond the classroom to pursue language and cultural studies.”

Since 1999, the Japan-America Society of Central Ohio’s Japanese Language Speech Contest has been an annual event designed to highlight the power of foreign language communication at the high school and university level.

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