A competition today in Iowa City is for midwestern students who’ve tackled a tough field. The University of Iowa hosts its sixth annual Japanese speech contest. It helps to motivate students, who are rare in the study of Asian language in this European ethnic region. Professor Yukiko Hatasa says she can understand why interest in foreign languages may be less here in the Midwest.Unlike the country’s coasts, we have few clear incentives to learn Japanese, one of the toughest tongues to master. Hatasa says they survey students every year to find out why they do take Asian language, and among the reasons is a cartoon style called anime (ANN’-uh-may).She says 80-percent are interested in a different culture, many want to understand the language in the popular cartoon animation style, others are just curious. Japanese for “Do your best, everybody.” High school and college students from Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Minnesota are spending all day being judged on grammar, pronunciation and the content of their brief speech on their choice of topic.
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