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  • 2017
Breaking language barriers, building bonds

By Lance Cpl. Muriah King, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan

Judges evaluate each contestant’s speech and stage presence during the 56th Annual Japanese and English Speech Contest at Sinfonia Iwakuni Concert Hall in Iwakuni City, Japan, Nov. 19, 2017.  The contest was hosted by the Japanese American Society to help contestants understand and appreciate each other’s language and culture, strengthening the Japanese and American friendship.
Breaking language barriers, building bonds
Judges evaluate each contestant’s speech and stage presence during the 56th Annual Japanese and English Speech Contest at Sinfonia Iwakuni Concert Hall in Iwakuni City, Japan, Nov. 19, 2017. The contest was hosted by the Japanese American Society to help contestants understand and appreciate each other’s language and culture, strengthening the Japanese and American friendship.
Contestants and visitors register for the 56th Annual Japanese and English Speech Contest at Sinfonia Iwakuni Concert Hall in Iwakuni City, Japan, Nov. 19, 2017.  The contest was hosted by the Japanese American Society to help contestants understand and appreciate each other’s language and culture, strengthening the Japanese and American friendship.
Breaking language barriers, building bonds
Contestants and visitors register for the 56th Annual Japanese and English Speech Contest at Sinfonia Iwakuni Concert Hall in Iwakuni City, Japan, Nov. 19, 2017. The contest was hosted by the Japanese American Society to help contestants understand and appreciate each other’s language and culture, strengthening the Japanese and American friendship.
Contestants, judges and distinguished guests pose for a picture during the 56th Annual Japanese and English Speech Contest at Sinfonia Iwakuni Concert Hall in Iwakuni City, Japan, Nov. 19, 2017.  The contest was hosted by the Japanese American Society to help contestants understand and appreciate each other’s language and culture, strengthening the Japanese and American friendship.
Breaking language barriers, building bonds
Contestants, judges and distinguished guests pose for a picture during the 56th Annual Japanese and English Speech Contest at Sinfonia Iwakuni Concert Hall in Iwakuni City, Japan, Nov. 19, 2017. The contest was hosted by the Japanese American Society to help contestants understand and appreciate each other’s language and culture, strengthening the Japanese and American friendship.
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Eliot V. Rasmussen, left, receives a first-place award for the adult Japanese speeches division from Bobby Shibazaki, the Japanese American Society president, during the 56th Annual Japanese and English Speech at Sinfonia Iwakuni Concert Hall in Iwakuni City, Japan, Nov. 19, 2017.  The contest was hosted by the Japanese American Society to help contestants understand and appreciate each other’s language and culture, strengthening the Japanese and American friendship.
Breaking language barriers, building bonds
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Eliot V. Rasmussen, left, receives a first-place award for the adult Japanese speeches division from Bobby Shibazaki, the Japanese American Society president, during the 56th Annual Japanese and English Speech at Sinfonia Iwakuni Concert Hall in Iwakuni City, Japan, Nov. 19, 2017. The contest was hosted by the Japanese American Society to help contestants understand and appreciate each other’s language and culture, strengthening the Japanese and American friendship.
Chiba Toya, a third-grade student from Shanan Municipal Tokuyama Elementary School, performs his speech “Origami” in English during the 56th Annual Japanese and English Speech Contest at Sinfonia Iwakuni Concert Hall in Iwakuni City, Japan, Nov. 19, 2017. The contest was hosted by the Japanese American Society to help contestants understand and appreciate each other’s language and culture, strengthening the Japanese and American friendship.
Breaking language barriers, building bonds
Chiba Toya, a third-grade student from Shanan Municipal Tokuyama Elementary School, performs his speech “Origami” in English during the 56th Annual Japanese and English Speech Contest at Sinfonia Iwakuni Concert Hall in Iwakuni City, Japan, Nov. 19, 2017. The contest was hosted by the Japanese American Society to help contestants understand and appreciate each other’s language and culture, strengthening the Japanese and American friendship.
The Japanese American Society held the event at the Sinfonia Iwakuni Concert Hall to help strengthen the U.S. – Japan friendship.

Japanese participants performed speeches in English while American participants performed theirs in Japanese. Contestants were judged on the content of their speeches as well as articulation, enunciation and stage presence.

“It’s awesome to see the work and dedication everyone put in,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jamison Williams, a supply officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. “They really thought about what they wanted to say to send their messages out.”

The contest brought students as young as first grade to compete, and 85 of 94 contestants were children in grades 1-12. 

Williams said starting young gets them exposed faster, and it’s going to pave a road for them in the future. 

Contestants dedicated time to study a different language and bond with others whose culture is much different from their own. 

“Learning each other’s languages help bridge many of the gaps that have been created by misunderstanding,” said Katharine Corbin-Rusnok, the second-place winner of the advanced portion of the contest. “Together we can help overcome misconceptions.”