Student takes top honors in state Japanese speech competition

April 25, 2019 | News, UToday, Arts and Letters
By Chase M. Foland

Deidra Buenger, a triple major studying English literature, Asian studies and Japanese, participated in the 2019 Japan-America Society of Central Ohio Japanese Speech Contest and won first place in the advanced category.

Buenger traveled to Dublin, Ohio, with Dr. Kasumi Yamazaki, assistant professor of Japanese, to present her speech, “From the Me That is Read by the Air, to the Me That Reads it.”

Deidra Buenger showed the award she won in the advanced category at the Japan-America Society of Central Ohio Japanese Speech Contest last month in this photo with Dr. Kasumi Yamazaki.

“Her speech focused on the interesting aspect of the Japanese slang expression, “KY (空気が読めない),” which typically is used to refer to someone who is unable to read the air,” Yamazaki explained. “Her speech touches on important topics such as intercultural communication and cross-cultural negotiation, sharing a powerful message about how to effectively express our own opinions while keeping the perspectives of others in mind.”

“I was so wrapped up in writing an interesting speech that I was unable to settle on a satisfactory idea. After talking to Dr. Yamazaki about this, we decided I was reading the air too much, and I was letting those concerns about how the audience would accept the speech hold me back from writing freely,” Buenger said about how she chose her speech topic.

She is the first UToledo student to take first place since the program began sending students to compete in 2015.

“When I first heard my name called as the first-place winner in the advanced category, I honestly felt relieved,” Buenger said. “I had spent months working toward this goal, and I was happy that I had met the expectations and hopes of those who had invested their time in me, particularly Dr. Yamazaki and my parents.”

On top of the prestigious award, Buenger received a $2,000 scholarship, which allows her to focus her time on other projects.

Currently, Buenger is working with Yamazaki on research regarding computer-assisted language learning and the perceptions of students of Japanese as a foreign/second language.

The Japanese America Society of Central Ohio is the premier organization for deepening understanding of and appreciation for the state’s Japanese culture. Its goal is to bridge the gap between two cultures.

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