CC Students Place First in Annual Japanese Speech Contest

Miriam Brown ’21

Rujun Gillian Xu ’22 and Sherry Xu ’21 took the stage on Nov. 9 for the 33rd annual Colorado/Wyoming Japanese Speech Contest. They each walked away with first place in their respective divisions.

Joan Ericson, professor of Japanese, says when the two were presenting, the crowd was completely silent.

“It was pretty amazing to listen to these two students because the whole audience … everybody was just quiet and listening,” Ericson says. “Not a sound — because they were so impressed.”

This is the third year that Colorado College students have participated in the speech contest. The competition is held in Denver, with other participants hailing from the University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Northern Colorado, Colorado State University, Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and Japanese Academy of the Rockies. Students’ speeches must be about three minutes long and written by the students, with only minimal editing help from professors. At the contest, they are then scored by a panel of judges for content, language, and presentation.

In Sherry Xu’s speech, she spoke about a haiku by Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa that she studied in a Buddhism class at CC, linking its message with a personal story of dealing with death and grief. In Rujun Gillian Xu’s speech, she connected a message about competitive stress in her high school to a motto from a popular Japanese TV show.

“I’m very proud of them,” Ericson says. “I was impressed by the fact that they chose topics that were both personal but everyone could relate to.”

Hiromi Onishi, lecturer in the German, Russian and East Asian Languages Department, says when she heard the speeches, she almost cried. Onishi and Ericson hope CC students’ engagement with the foreign languages departments inside and outside of the classroom continues to grow.

“Learning a language is not just learning a skill. It transforms who you are,” Onishi says. “It transforms what you think and how you think. My hope is that we will have more students who realize the benefits of learning a foreign language.”