MSU Student Wins Japanese Language Speech Contest

On March 13th, 2022, the Consulate-General of Japan in Detroit presented the 27th Annual Michigan Japanese Language Speech Contest. Kellyn Ryan-Eyde, a Japanese major from MSU, was one of the top contestants, placing first of six university division contestants.

In his speech, “Space Development”, Kellyn started out by asking the audience, “What is it like to live on another planet?” and “Does life exist on other planets?”.  He went on to explain that somewhere in the 93 billion light-years of the universe, there are likely some forms of life out there, but they are so far away, and their existence is not that significant to us. For instance, even if there were aliens on a planet 65 million light-years from Earth, they would see how our planet looked 65 million years ago, the time when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth – a concept called the Fermi Paradox. Finally, Kellyn argued the importance of space development for our survival if the Earth becomes inhabitable and the potential of cross-national cooperation for the mission. After the 5-minute speech concluded, three judges asked Kellyn various questions in Japanese regarding his speech. When a judge asked him if he wanted to participate in space tourism, he said he wanted to go to the moon and play sports, where the gravitational force is weaker.  

According to the 2020 Japanese Education Survey, conducted by the Consulate General of Japan in Detroit, 1798 college students and 3729 K-12 students took Japanese language courses in the state of Michigan. The annual Speech Contest has been previously held at venues like the Novi Civic Center and MSU International Center, but since 2021, it was held via Zoom due to the pandemic.  

Still, Kellyn says the speech contest was “really fun” and likes the convenience of not having to travel anywhere. Of course, it would have been nice to travel with friends to the contest and meet and talk with other people in person, but that would cost time and money, especially for participants who live far away. Online platforms still provide an opportunity to meet people and make meaningful connections. About a week before the contest, Kellyn and his Japanese instructor, Ms. Mariko Kawaguchi, practiced for the contest every day via Zoom. According to Kellyn, he received very tailored instruction, such as articulating the high-low pitch accent in Japanese. 

Kellyn encourages other students to participate in extra-curricular activities even if they are not in person. “You can meet many people and develop the skills you may not normally gain in the regular classes,” he says.

Screen shot of a zoom call with 16 people. Kellyn (in the 3rd row, left) is with other contestants and the judges.
Kellyn (in the 3rd row, left) with other contestants and the judges

Photo: courtesy of Consulate General of Japan in Detroit