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Local children shine in English speech contest

By: Christopher Lynagh

Date Posted: 1998-10-18

It was history repeating itself, or so it seemed. The All Okinawan Junior High English Speech Contest held last Monday had both first and second places going to the same people who shone at the Nakagami district contest last month. "I'm so happy, it's making me cry," said a visibly moved Ayano Takanishi of Kitanagasuku Junior High as she clutched the first place trophy received for her speech, 'My Younger Sister.'

Shoko Komezu of Ginowan Junior High also displayed the same pizzazz that dazzled last month's audience with 'The TAKARAZUKA DANCE...a challenge to myself.' Both will join third place winner Kenshin Zaha of Kanagusuku Junior High to compete at the national competition next month in Tokyo.

Judges Carolyn Kaltenback and Hiroshi Uezu set about the difficult task of choosing three from twenty contenders to represent this Prefecture to the nation.

In her final summing up, Ms. Kaltenback, an Assistant Language Teacher at Koyo Senior High, noted the admirable courage of all who participated. "Okinawa's future looks very bright due to the dedication and enthusiasm of the young people here."

Mr. Ueza, who is director of the Okinawan Prefectural Language Center, took the opportunity to mention three programs within the prefecture that bring young people here closer to the outside world.

Speech contests such as these address the national government's desire to 'internationalize' Japan and also provide opportunities for those who participate to improve their English.

Prior to the contest, host Kaneku Ayako of Yorimiya Junior High reflected upon the first of these goals. "The world is becoming smaller and smaller. We need to understand each other." She doesn't believe, however, that 'internationalism' is something that comes about simply because it is desired from above. "It comes from the bottom of individuals hearts."

Cherie Cash, having worked closely for several months with Ageda's Chie Nakayama, noticed with pride the improvements her student made. "She's come a long way. She practiced in front of the school and that gave her a lot of self-confidence. The hardest thing has been working around my student's busy schedule. Finally, we had to meet at 7:30 in the morning!" Wakana Kinjo led Yamauchi Junior High's cheer squad while practicing for this week's contest. When preparing for the Nakagami competition, she also participated in a Japanese speech contest at the same time!

Ayano Takanishi certainly has no doubts about the level of commitment that it will take to win in Tokyo. "I'll start practicing today!"

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