Speech 演説

After much badgering by my teachers, this year I finally decided to have a shot at the prefectural speech contest for non-native speakers of Japanese. Somewhat improbably, I came in second place, although this may have been because a) one of those teachers was on the panel of judges, b) another teacher gave me a lot of help writing my speech, c) I had concocted a fiendishly cunning tactical plan after seeing a Vietnamese friend take part last year, and d) I have been living in Japan and studying the language a good deal longer than most of the other contestants: my first lesson (at South Thames College in Putney, in case you were wondering) was nearly a decade ago, and all told I have lived here for over four years, whereas the eventual winner – whose speech was so wonderful that it actually made me cry – has only been here for six months.

If nothing else, entering the contest taught me the importance of preparation, aka the six Ps: Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. When I was a teenager, I harboured ambitions of becoming an actor, but gave it all up because I couldn’t handle the pressure. Terrified that I might forget my lines, I either deliberately took minor roles or volunteered for backstage work instead, although the thing is, I can’t recall ever taking the time to properly memorise my lines. Determined not to make the same mistake again, I recited my speech at every available opportunity, including over breakfast, during the cycle ride to and from work, in the teachers’ cloakroom, and while Mrs M and M Jr were taking a bath. I also used all three third-year classes at my junior high school as audience guinea pigs, and while I don’t think I ever made it all the way through without making at least one mistake, by the time I was standing at the lectern on the big day, the words were so fixed in my mind that it would have taken an assassination attempt or a stray meteorite for me to mess them up.

Several of my fellow contestants, meanwhile, were still tweaking, memorising and generally fretting right up until the last minute. The woman sitting next to me as we waited for our names to be called didn’t listen to a word that was being said, instead muttering her lines to herself the entire time, and one or two others didn’t know exactly what they were going to say until they were already saying it. As the organisers explained, going over the official time limit of five minutes wouldn’t necessarily be fatal to one’s chances of getting a prize, but it wouldn’t exactly help them either, and two or three contestants were interrupted in mid-sentence by the dreaded warning bell (the timekeepers also held up a ‘thirty seconds to go’ cue card to add to the tension).

Five minutes, as it turns out, makes for a much shorter speech than you might expect, to the extent that once I (OK, my Japanese teacher and I) had timed it, pruned it, timed it again and pruned it some more, mine ran to just one side of word-processed A4. This is even more surprising when you consider that Japanese is such an economical language: a much larger amount of information can be packed into a 140-character Japanese Tweet, for example, than its English equivalent.

I have made speeches in English many times, and while it’s risky to just play it by ear, speaking in your native language allows you so much more leeway for ad-libbing, covering up mistakes or saying the same thing in a slightly different way. In a second language, though, you have far fewer weapons at your disposal, and are a lot more likely to talk yourself into a syntactical dead-end from which there is no elegant or economical means of escape.

My chosen specialised subject, as you might expect, was M Jr, and while my teachers kept emphasising that prize-winning speeches in the past have at least ended on a serious note – they tend to have serious beginnings and middles, too – I made a point of playing it for laughs. For those of you who don’t understand Japanese, I have translated the speech into English, and while much of the humour has been lost as a result, just for the hell of it, I also fed the original into Bing Translator, with bizarre – and frankly funnier – results (see below).

Becoming a father for the first time in Japan

In December 2011 my wife became pregnant. As a result, I realised that when it comes to childbirth, there are various differences between Japan and the UK.

For example, when my wife found out that she was pregnant, she said, ‘Ten months is going to be tough..’ ‘Wow!’ I thought. ‘Japanese women are pregnant for ten months! And to think, British women are only pregnant for nine…’ Later on I was relieved to be told that one month of pregnancy is calculated differently by Japanese and non-Japanese*.

Pregnancy in the UK is basically a licence to ‘eat as much as you like’, and it is not uncommon for pregnant women to gain four or five stone. In Japan, on the other hand, pregnant women are told by their doctors not to gain more than one and a half stone – sometimes even one stone – in weight. Despite her morning sickness, while she was pregnant my wife had a craving for ice cream, and in particular, green tea-flavoured Super Cup. In accordance with the doctors’ guidance, I strictly limited the amount of ice cream she ate. But when I got home from work, many was the time I would find an empty Super Cup in the kitchen rubbish bin.

On 6th August last year my wife’s contractions started and we went to the hospital. According to her, the labour was so painful it felt as if her back would break. If she had given birth in the UK, she would have been able to receive as much painkilling treatment as she liked. In Japan, however, most women giving birth are not allowed to take medicine of any kind. So when my wife asked a nurse, ‘Excuse me, can I have some painkillers?’ she was flatly refused. ‘If you take medicine,’ said the nurse, ‘your baby won’t know when it’s supposed to come out.’

Eventually my wife’s waters broke and she was taken into the delivery room. Seeing her on the deilvery table was so terrifying that I had absolutely no idea what to do for her. When I whispered, ‘Good luck!’ and tried to stroke her hair, she swatted my hand away and said, ‘Get out of the way!’ (This is an experience I think dads all over the world will be able to relate to.)

Before I knew it my wife had given birth to a beautiful baby girl, and I was so happy that tears came to my eyes.

At present, one in four babies in the UK is born to mixed-race parents, whereas in Japan, that statistic is just one in thirty. As a result, such children are viewed as special and referred to as ‘half’s. ‘Half’ isn’t necessarily a bad word, but since our daughter has both Japanese and British genes, instead of being referred to as a ‘half’, I hope that she will be referred to as a ‘double’**.

Either way, from now on my wife and I will try our very best to bring up our baby.

Thank you very much for listening.

* The Japanese calculate the term of a pregnancy in lunar months of twenty-eight days, as opposed to calendar months of twenty-eight to thirty-one, hence the confusion.
** The ‘double’ idea wasn’t my own, and is gaining in popularity as an – albeit slightly jokey – way of referring to mixed-race Japanese.

The top four speeches were broadcast on local radio (one of my students, whose mother had tuned into the progamme by chance, came up to me the next day to say congratulations), and listening back made me realise how many ‘um’s and ‘er’s I used to stall for time, when what I should have been using were Japanese ‘eh-toh’s and ‘a-noh’s. Not that I’m going to post it here, but Mrs M videoed the whole thing for posterity, and watching this made me even more self-conscious, largely because I have developed a Prince Charles-like habit of concluding each paragraph with a kind of half-smile / half-grimace.

This is the radio broadcast:

And here’s the bonkers Bing translation:

That would be a father for the first time in Japan,

My wife got pregnant two years ago, in December. I noticed variations in it about childbirth in the United Kingdom and Japan sparked, of.

See, for example, pregnancy, wife “10 for months, it’s harder now…” and when I said, I “Wow! Japanese girls are pregnant 10 months it until delivery?! In the United Kingdom takes only 9 months! “And wondered. Being taught how to count Japanese and foreigners is different is one month pregnant, I felt.

A British woman was pregnant, basically “all-you-can-eat” in, often pregnant fat 2, 30 km away. On the other hand, doctors in Japan is pregnant woman. 10 kg so that does not increase more than the weight limit. Wife was fixated in the ice cream (especially green tea taste Super Cup) despite the morning sickness nausea during pregnancy. I have severely restricted wife eats ice cream according to the guidance of the teacher,. But I get home and kitchen trash discovered the empty Super Cup many times out of the box.

She started 8/6 last year, and went to the hospital. According to his wife is sore hip crumbling labor pains or feel. If you birth in the United Kingdom in general labor analgesia can so you can freely take medicine. However, natural childbirth from straightforward in Japan, my wife “or why the pain? “And when I asked the nurse who was refused if you drink drugs, when the baby is out, some couldn’t once and for all.

Finally, my wife and her waters broke and went into the delivery room. When I saw the wife is depicted riding on a birthing bed, I too scary too, you can give and what did not know at all. In a low voice “go for it! “And said, as his wife’s hair. Then, “out of the way! “And I have been rebuffed. This experience is worldwide independent dad that you can see well.

Landmarks that cute girl is born safely between, I’m glad tears..

Currently, parents is international couples is one of four children born in the United Kingdom. In Japan it to substitution, so a 30 per person, such children are seen as a “half” something special. “Half” is not a bad word that is so blood of English and Japanese in both daughters, want to seen as a “double” not “half”, and I hope.

I work and I would like to hard parenting hard with my wife from this either way,.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Here’s the original Japanese text:


一昨年の12月,私の妻が妊娠しました。 それをきっかけに,イギリスと日本では出産に関して、さまざまな違いがあるのに気づきました。



去年の8月6日,陣痛が始まり、病院に行きました。妻によると、陣痛は腰が砕けるかと思うぐらい痛かったそうです 。もしイギリスで出産するなら無痛分娩が一般できなので薬を自由に飲むことができます。ところが、日本では自然分娩が普通ですから,妻は「痛み止めをもらえませんか?」と看護師さんに頼んだとき、「薬を飲んだら、赤ちゃんはいつ出てこられるか分かりませんよ」ときっぱりと断られました。

いよいよ、妻は破水して分娩室に入りました。妻が分娩台に乗っている姿を見た時、私はあまりにも恐ろしすぎて、何をしてあげたらいいのか全く分かりませんでした。小さい声で「 頑張れ!」と言って、妻の髪の毛をなでようとしました。すると,「邪魔!」と拒絶されてしまいました。この経験は世界中の立ち会いするお父さんはよく分かると思います。





And finally, purely out of curiosity, I fed the Bing translation back through Bing and back into Japanese, with even more surreal results:


私の妻は妊娠して 2 年前に、12 月に得た。私はそれの変化イギリスときっかけと、日本での出産に気づいたの。

、妊娠、妻を見る「10 ヶ月間は、それは難しい今…」と私が言ったとき、”うわっ !日本の女の子妊娠 10 ヶ月はそれまで配信ですか?イギリスはわずか 9 ヶ月で !」と疑問に思いました。日本人と外国人をカウントする方法を教えられている 1 ヶ月妊娠しているが異なる場合は、私は感じた。

イギリス人女性は妊娠中、基本的に「食べ放題」に、多くの場合妊娠脂肪 2、30 km。その一方で、日本の医師は妊娠中の女性です。10 は増加していませんので kg よりも重量制限。妻、アイスクリーム (特に緑茶味スーパー カップ) にもかかわらず、朝のつわり吐き気を妊娠中に固定されてあった。私は深刻な妻食べるアイスクリーム先生の指導によると制限が。しかし、家に帰るし、台所のごみ箱に何回もの空のスーパー カップを発見しました。

彼女は 8/6 昨年を開始し、病院に行った。彼の妻によると痛みの崩壊しつつある労働痛みヒップまたは感じです。イギリスに生まれの一般的な鎮痛労働する場合だからあなた自由に薬を取ることがでくことができます。しかし、自然分娩から日本、私の妻の簡単な”や、なぜ痛みですか?”私赤ちゃんが出ているとき薬を飲む場合は拒否された看護師を尋ねたとき、いくつか一度、すべてことができなかった。

最後に、私の妻と彼女の水を破ったし、分娩室に行った。妻は乗る、出産ベッドに、私はあまりにも怖いのも描かれている見たとき、与えることができるし、はまったく知りませんでしたか。低い声で「それのために行く !」いう彼の妻の髪。その後、「邪魔 !」私は拒絶されています。この経験は、あなたがよく見ることができます世界中の独立したお父さんです。


現在、親は国際カップル イギリスで生まれ、4 人の子供の一つです。それ置換するので日本では 30 人、そのような子供は、「半分」特別な何かを見られています。「半分」そう遺伝子英語と日本語の両方の娘に悪い言葉ではない、ない「半分」、「ダブル」を見たしたいし、思います。