UWM Holds First Mock Japanese Quiz Bowl
Exploring the culture and language of Japan
By Britney Donald
Level 1 Team Denmark Ichiban from Denmark High School are the current winners of UWM’s first mock Japan Quiz Bowl. The team competed against four different high schools and 14 other teams.
Team Denmark Ichiban consisted of Logan Schmidt, Mason Geibel and Kyleen Warpinski, who all agreed that the interviews were very interactive and proved to be the most challenging portion of the event for students and teachers.
The students were only allowed to speak in Japanese, starting with self- introductions while the teachers had to ask questions in response to the student’s hobbies or daily life activities. Similar oral exams are a staple in the Japanese language program, which test vocabulary, listening comprehension, and fluency.
Cultural presentations were given by college students from the University of Tsukuba, who traveled from Japan throughout the Midwest as a part of the KAKEHASHI Project. The project aims to increase the number of travelers from overseas by representing characteristics and cultural facts about Japan in a creative way.
UWM’s Japan Quiz Bowl is based on the Japanese Quiz Bowl held by the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies. The Michigan Japanese Quiz Bowl holds qualifying rounds where students test their ability to speak and write in Japanese and answer questions based on Japanese cultural facts.
Denmark High School, Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School, Menasha High School and Franklin High School all gathered to compete for the ultimate prize of $210 gift certificate for the entire team, a certificate of congratulations written entirely in Japanese and bragging rights.
Each school split into teams of two or three and was also further divided into levels one and two with 14 level one teams and 17 level two teams. Level one refers to the first year students with basic knowledge of the Japanese writing system and minimal focus on kanji while level two focused on advanced kanji, grammar and sentence structure.
Based on Chinese characters, Japanese has three writing systems named hiragana, katakana and kanji. The writing systems range from easiest to hardest in terms of writing and speaking.
President of the UWM Japanese Cultural Association, Sarah Shelnutt created a Facebook page to gather support and volunteers for the event. The goal is to spread the Japanese language to as many people as possible and to prove that there is still demand and interest. Shelnutt is in her third year studying Japanese at UWM and still going strong.
“Japanese is still a powerhouse language,” Shelnutt said, “We want to do it to let them know what to look for at the collegiate level. You can go somewhere with it and you should.”
Terry O’Dell from Lincoln High School in Manitowoc and Kazuko Stone from Denmark High School are first-year teachers who helped chaperone the event. They felt welcomed and regarded UWM as relaxing. O’Dell was impressed to see so much effort given to the event.
“They put a lot of time into it,” O’Dell said. “It’s very encouraging for the students. I hope they do it again next year.”
The quiz bowl consisted of three categories which included writing, interviewing and a final quiz portion. The written portion will test the ability to memorize vocabulary and stroke order as well. The Japanese writing system has many characters that look very similar to one another and so stroke order is vital to writing the correct character.
Team SMS Girls, a level one all-female team from Lincoln High School in Manitowoc, had just finished the written portion were shocked at some of the questions. Mailo Voua, See Vang and Adrieanna Valles were nervous but hoped to improve in the later rounds.
“I feel good when I know the answer”. Adrieanna Valles said. Although this was their first event that put their Japanese to the test, it gave them the drive to keep pursuing their goals within the Japanese language. With the team mantra of “we try our best”, the girls proceeded on to the second round, interviews.
The interview portion proved to be the most challenging for students and even the teachers. The students were only allowed to speak in Japanese, starting with self- introductions while the teachers had to ask questions in response to the student’s hobbies or daily life activities. Similar oral exams are a staple in the Japanese language program, which test vocabulary, listening comprehension, and fluency.
The third round contained a combination of questions based on Japanese historical culture, political figures, geography, grammar, pop culture, listening comprehension and writing.
To further immerse students in the Japanese culture, they were treated to lunch which consisted of common Japanese food such as rice balls, green tea and sweet radish slices.
Atsuko Suga Borgmann, Professor and Japanese Program Coordinator, worked with the Wisconsin Association of Teachers of Japanese, teachers from the participating schools, students from the UWM Japanese Cultural Association and fellow UWM professors from the Japanese program to put the event together.
Suga said she is interested in hosting another event next year but getting JCA involved is a must. As for next year’s plans, Suga would like to invite a taiko drum group from UW-Oshkosh as the main performance.