Eckerd students win big at 2019 Mid-Florida Japanese Speech Contest

April 18, 2019
Thomas Lang '19 speaking Japanese

Thomas Lang ’19 competed in the advanced-level competition. Photo: Yasuo Uotate

Thomas Lang ’19 noticed some small similarities between the Spanish language he had been studying since sixth grade and the Japanese language he started learning at Eckerd College.

Those observations paid off April 6 when his four-minute speech titled “The Portuguese Shadow in Japanese Language” won first place in the advanced-level competition of the Association of Florida Teachers of Japanese 2019 Mid-Florida Japanese Speech Contest hosted at Eckerd.

“Spanish had always come easy to me, so I wanted to try to see if I could learn another language,” said Thomas, a senior international relations and global affairs and Spanish student from Williston, Vt. “Japan was always a place I was interested in and wanted to learn more [about]. Taking Japanese was just a random decision I made my first year.”

Thomas had to take at least seven semesters of Japanese to qualify for the advanced level of the competition. The language became one of his three minors—to go along with his double major. He’ll graduate this spring as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Delta Pi and Pi Sigma Alpha honor societies and as a Ford Apprentice Scholar.

“It’s been a busy four years,” Thomas recalled.

Japanese speech contest attendees

The contest was hosted at Eckerd College. Photo: Yasuo Uotate

Other Eckerd students performed well in the 13th annual competition hosted in the Sheen Auditorium. Miranda “Randi” Raimondi ’21, an environmental studies major from Buffalo, Texas, and Anna “Lisa” Goodman ’22 won first place in the university-level karaoke contest for a video of their performance of the theme to Gegege no Kitaro—an anime about a half-human, half-demon child.

Lisa, an East Asian studies and theatre double major from Birmingham, Ala., explained that as an anime fan, she knew she wanted to take Japanese language at Eckerd. When she heard about the speech contest, she chose to do the online karaoke competition because live speeches conflicted with her casting in the Theatre discipline’s spring production of Scenes from Metamorphoses.

“[Visiting Assistant Professor of Japanese Chieko] Yamazaki-sensei suggested the theme, and so it made it onto our shortlist,” Lisa said. “I’m really proud we won.”

Randi Raimondi ’21 and Lisa Goodman ’22 perform the theme to Gegege no Kitaro.

Maya Macas ’19, an East Asian studies and international business student from St. Petersburg, took second place in the advanced-level speech contest, and Justin Kenji Shwetzer ’21, a music student from Tampa, took second place in the intermediate-level speech contest.

Thomas admitted that both Yamazaki and Associate Professor of Japanese Eileen Mikals-Adachi helped him strengthen his Japanese and prepare for the competition’s rigors. He’s currently working to secure a postgraduate position teaching English abroad. Maybe his first trip to Japan will be for work.

“I’ve been to Spain and Ecuador for study abroad and as a teacher’s assistant, but I haven’t had time to go to Japan yet,” he laughed.