Speech by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Education, at the Japanese Speech Contest 2019

Published Date: 15 July 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

H.E. Mr Jun Yamazaki, Ambassador of Japan to Singapore,

Mr Lai Ah Keow, Chairman of Japanese Speech Contest 2019 Organising Committee,

Mr Takeshi Oshima, CEO of Japanese Speech Contest 2019 Organising Committee,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Good afternoon and konnichiwa. Congratulations on a very successful 51st Japanese Speech Contest. I enjoyed listening to the speeches by all our enthusiastic participants. I appreciate very much the efforts by the organisers and sponsors over the years, to organise this speech contest and provide our students with a fun way to apply their learning of the Japanese language.

2. Learning a foreign language is a valuable skill in our interconnected world. I would like to commend our participants for their effort to prepare for this competition. You have put in a lot of hard work leading up to this day. Writing and giving speeches in your native language is already a difficult task, but having to do the same in a foreign language in front of a large audience requires even more determination and courage.

3. Learning a country’s language is also linked to learning its culture. I hope that your experiences in learning the Japanese language has helped you to gain a deeper understanding about Japanese culture, and appreciate why Japan has been a much admired nation in many areas including technology, innovation, environmental sustainability, cuisine and social graces.

4. I want to share two anecdotes. The first is the wearing of a mask. In Japan, when you do not feel well, you wear a mask because you want to protect other people. This is an example of how considerate and thoughtful the Japanese are.

5. The second anecdote I remember left a very deep impression on me. During the Fukushima incident, there were many people who were affected. Their homes were destroyed. The government set up centres to distribute food and blankets. People were queuing up in an orderly manner to collect the items. When asked why they were only collecting one set of items each, they replied that they only needed one, and that there were many others queuing behind. Again, I don’t think that we can expect to see this in all places. This is something that I hope we can learn too – not just the language, the food, the culture, but that something that makes a society come together.

6. During the homestay presentation, our students shared about the focus on learning, skills, and the passion for pursuing a craft. That is something that we hope to do too in Singapore, and we call that SkillsFuture. The focus should not just be on academic qualifications, but about pursuing what you are passionate about, and going as deep as you can and taking pride in what you do. You can be a sushi chef, a craftsman, a singer, a performer – it does not matter. Have passion in what you do, hone your skills, develop your craft, and give it your best. That is what I admire too about Japanese craftsmen. It is a delight to see them at work. This is something I hope we can also learn from. This passion and respect for skills, and the passion for lifelong learning – something that, I think, will be necessary in the future development of our economy and society.

7. This contest would not have been possible without the sponsorship and generous support of various organisations and Prefectural Governments. I thank them for their support and generosity.

8. Lastly, I would like to thank the Embassy of Japan in Singapore, the Japanese Cultural Society (JCS), the Japanese Association, Singapore (JAS), the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Singapore (JCCI), the Japanese University Graduates Association of Singapore (JUGAS), as well as all the sponsors, for jointly organising this annual speech contest. I wish the event continued success.

9. Arigatou gozaimashita.

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