Students Clinch First Place During Annual Japan Bowl

Participating in only its second annual New England Region Japan Bowl Conference, two Phillips Academy teams advanced to the national round by taking first place in the Level II and Level IV categories. Regional competitions took place nation-wide in 15 locations this past Saturday as Andover students spent Saturday competing at the Children’s Museum in Boston. Irene Hsu ’04, Jessie Pak ‘04, and Paul Sonne ’03 won the Level II competition, while Adrienne Benitez ’03, Rashid Galadanci ’03, and Benn Waters ’04 emerged victorious in Level IV. These six students will travel to Washington , D.C. on April 12th for the 11th Annual National Japan Bowl. Sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C., the Japan Bowl is a quiz-bowl competition for high school students studying Japanese. Depending on their proficiency in the language, participants compete in Level II, III, or IV. Questions fall into the categories of grammar, kanji (a special alphabet), katakana (Japanese translation of English terms), kotowaza (idioms), culture, current events, and reading comprehension. The competition began with a preliminary round in the morning. While three teams competed against each other, the remaining teams participated in cultural events such as tea ceremonies, dance performances, origami, and the Japanese board game “Go.” The three teams from each level with the highest scores in the preliminary round qualified for the Final Competition in the afternoon. The Final Competition consisted of questions similar in format to those in the preliminary round, but of a higher difficulty. Students competed in front of an audience with a panel of judges moderating. Japanese instructors also attended the competition and participated in a Teachers’ Workshop where they received sources and exchanged ideas to aid each other in teaching. Chair of the Japanese Department Teruyo Bourne commented, “I make it a part of winter term curriculum [here at PA] to participate in Japan Bowl. It is a great chance to review what the students have studied.” Because the Japan Bowl is open to students studying Japanese at Levels II – IV, students enrolled in Japanese 200, 300, and 400 at Andover prepare to participate in the competition. However, Ms. Bourne recently extended the participation to those students in Japanese 100, as “[she] thought this would be a great opportunity for the young ones to broaden their eyes.” Ms. Bourne notes that Andover students have shown great enthusiasm for the event. “The students take notes vigorously in class, they go online to do research, and they ask a lot of questions,” Ms. Bourne said. Because teams from the Academy held two out of the three spots in the Final Round at both the second and fourth levels this year, Andover students were forced to compete against their peers for the first and second place positions. Although the questions at the National Competition will be administered in the same format as in the Regional Competition, a special category exclusive to the 2003 Final Rounds will be added on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of U.S. Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s mission to Japan. According to the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C., it created the Japan Bowl in order to “help standardize Japanese language instruction. … provide an opportunity for students to get together to reinforce their interest and determination in learning Japanese…expose teachers and students to a day of cultural activities directly related to Japan…[and to] provide teachers with an opportunity to meet each other and exchange ideas and information.” Native speakers and those who have had “significant exposure” to the language through home stays in Japan are not eligible for participation. Last year, the Academy participated for the first time in the Japan Bowl, leaving with second and third place prizes in the competition. A special prize allowed Waters, Benitez, and Ben Sprattler ’03 to travel to Japan for three weeks.