Mon, 12 May 2003

Non-Jakartans dominate Japanese speech contest

Sari P. Setiogi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Brimming with confidence, a teenager takes a deep bow to pay respects to the audience packing the Japanese Cultural Center hall at the Summitmas I building on Jl. Jend. Sudirman in South Jakarta.

Moments later fluent narration comes out of her lips. She is talking about the beautiful scenery seen during her train trip between Cianjur and Bandung, both in West Java.

Except for her physical appearance, the way she speaks, her intonations and gestures may suggest that she is a native Japanese.

The 17-year-old student of state SMU 1 in Cianjur, Kiki Rizki Yuniar, was among 12 Indonesian students taking part in the final of the third National Japanese Speech Competition on Saturday.

The annual competition was held by the Japan Foundation in cooperation with the Directorate General of Basic and Intermediate Education.

Kiki, who has learned Japanese for four years, titled her speech Cianju-ru Bandon kisha (The Cianjur-Bandung train).

The competition judgment covered the substance of the speech, fluency in using the language, gestures when on stage and the answers to questions raised by the jury after the speech.

Ahmad Riza Zulfikar from state SMUN 8 in Malang, East Java, came out the winner. Kiki finished second, followed by Dewa Ayu Utami Kinasih from state SMUN 4 in Denpasar, Bali. Aji Prasetyo from Satya Wacana Christian senior high school in the Central Java town of Salatiga won the best performance award on people's choice.

The prize for the top three participants was a Japanese Language Program in Kansai, Japan. They are also given a chance to contest the annual Japanese Speech Award in Japan.

Compared to English, Japanese is not commonly learned in Indonesia, although every year more and more people study the language either in private courses or in school.

The Japan Foundation's program coordinator, Widjayanti Tundjung, said Bali displayed the most significant increase in the number of students taking Japanese as an optional foreign language in high school.

"Even high schools in small villages in Bali provide Japanese classes for their students," she said.

An average 600,000 Japanese tourists visit Indonesia annually, contributing about US$650 million per year to state coffers.

Earlier last week, the Japan Foundation also staged a talk show on language programs in high school and Japanese classes.

"We want to open people's minds to choosing a language program in high school is a good option," said Widjayanti.

Indonesian high schools divide their third-grade students into three majors: science classes (IPA), social classes (IPS) and language classes.

Only a few high schools offer language classes, as fewer students are interested.