Linguistics professors and graduate students from about 70 countries heard presentations from Kalamazoo College Associate Professor of Japanese Noriko Sugimori and Assistant Professor of Spanish Tris Faulkner at a pragmatics seminar in July.
The International Pragmatics Conference, themed “The shape of interaction: the pragmatics of (a)typicality,” was conducted at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Solbosch Campus, in Brussels, Belgium.
Sugimori’s presentation, titled “Exploring What Are Atypical and Typical in Modern Japanese: Newspaper Imperial Honorifics and Language Policies,” built on her past studies examining the changes in and the use of Japanese imperial honorifics, representing a variety of political slants in modern Japan during and after World War II. Honorifics are titles or words that imply or express high status, politeness or respect.
Faulkner’s presentation, titled “The Relationship Between Mood and Modal Concord in Spanish Directive Complements,” centered on past experimental studies that demonstrated that traditionally-described, “subjunctive-requiring” clauses are not as stringently subjunctive as previously put forth. In this presentation, she discussed “weak” directive predicates (such as recomendar que ‘to recommend that’ and aconsejar que ‘to advise that’) and their use of the indicative (instead of the customary use of the subjunctive) in contexts designated to putting forth a singular order or command as opposed to dual or bilateral instructions.
The semiannual conference is presented by the International Pragmatics Association (IPrA), a global scientific organization devoted to the study of language. Established in 1986, it currently has about 1,500 members and targets successful communication across languages and borders.
A storyteller and comedian with Broadway credits will be the featured presenter at Kalamazoo College’s Kafu Lecture on Thursday, April 20, in the Dalton Theatre at Light Fine Arts.
Katsura Sunshine is one of only a few living non-Japanese masters of rakugo, a 400-year-old tradition of comic-monologue storytelling in Japan. In the practice, a lone storyteller, dressed in a kimono, kneels on a cushion while using a fan and a hand towel as props.
To become a professional rakugoka, a storyteller must be apprenticed to a master, from whom the storyteller receives a stage name. Sunshine, originally from Canada, first was accepted as an apprentice to the rakugo storytelling master Katsura Bunshi VI in September 2008. He debuted professionally on April 26, 2009, in Singapore, and completed his three-year rakugo apprenticeship in November 2011.
Sunshine has performed in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Slovenia, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Gabon, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia and Japan. Reviews of Sunshine’s critically-acclaimed performances, such as a 2019 review from the New York Times, say his tales and prologues are full of self-deprecating humor, placing him in scenarios where he commonly plays an outsider. Watch excerpts from his previous performances in English and Japanese at Sunshine’s YouTube channel.
The Kafu Lecture was established in 1982 by an anonymous donor in honor of Nagai Kafu, an acclaimed 20th century Japanese writer. Kafu studied at Kalamazoo College during the 1904-05 academic year. Admission to the event is free and open to the public. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with the show beginning at 7.
The event is cosponsored by K’s departments of Japanese, theatre and anthropology-sociology, and the Soga Japan Center at Western Michigan University. For more information, email K’s Department of Japanese at email@example.com.
A strong tradition is emerging at Kalamazoo College with at least one student placing among the top three finishers in a prestigious Japanese speech contest for the fourth year in a row.
Madeline Schroeder ’23 finished third out of 10 finalists on March 13 in the university division of the event organized by Detroit’s Consulate General of Japan. Participants wrote five-minute speeches in Japanese that they delivered through Zoom this year after they were selected by a committee to advance past a preliminary round.
Schroeder’s speech, titled “Period of Change,” detailed her experiences attempting to study abroad through K including the challenges she and her family faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Japan instituted strict border-control measures in 2020, foreign students weren’t permitted to enter the country, ending her dreams of studying abroad.
The Center for International Programs (CIP) “worked hard to find alternatives after the extended-term program in Kyoto was canceled,” Schroeder said. “Our last chance was to study abroad this spring in Nagasaki, but the College canceled this program in December. I was not surprised, but I felt disappointed knowing that I would not have the study abroad experience I dreamed of when I first came to Kalamazoo College. The hardest part was realizing that even though I did everything I could, things still didn’t work out.”
Schroeder turned to community activism, gathering students who faced similar situations to work with the CIP and help them find study abroad opportunities.
“I asked the CIP a lot of questions about paperwork and contacted other departments such as the Student Health Center or the University Studies Abroad Consortium, the partner organization for the Nagasaki program, when the CIP did not know the answers to my questions,” she said. “At the same time, my sophomore friends were beginning to apply to or consider study abroad programs, so I gave them advice and listened to their concerns and frustrations about the complicated application process. If only a little bit, I wanted to decrease the number of students who were disappointed like me.”
Through this work, Schroeder overcame the difficulties she once had making friends as a first-year student. “Now, even if I’m alone, my family and friends are in my heart,” she said.
After her speech, Schroeder took questions in Japanese from the three contest judges, who represented a variety of Michigan non-profit groups related to Japan. In response to their questions, she said she still plans to visit Japan after she graduates, perhaps through the JET Program, a competitive employment opportunity that allows young professionals to live and work in Japan.
“I would love to visit Kyoto, where I originally planned on studying abroad,” Schroeder said. “It’s a large city with lots of natural areas, so there is a lot to explore. I still hope to stay in Japan for an extended period of time so that I can learn more about the language and culture.”
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is awarding Kalamazoo College a $500,000 grant through the American Rescue Plan to help offset financial losses incurred as a result of the pandemic.
In total, the NEH is giving $87.8 million to 300 cultural and educational institutions, 90 of which are colleges and universities.
“The American Rescue Plan recognizes that the cultural and educational sectors are essential components of the United States economy and civic life, vital to the health and resilience of American communities,” NEH Acting Chairman Adam Wolfson said. “These new grants will provide a lifeline to the country’s colleges and universities, museums, libraries, archives, historical sites and societies, save thousands of jobs in the humanities placed at risk by the pandemic, and help bring economic recovery to cultural and educational institutions and those they serve.”
At K specifically, the grant will help fortify the College’s language programs. Enrollment in language courses has waned over the past year, in part because the pandemic affected study abroad opportunities. The money will support the hiring and retention of foreign language faculty and staff; sustain student interest in language programs; revitalize programs in Arabic, Hebrew and ancient Greek; provide faculty better opportunities for research; and bolster study abroad to ensure it remains affordable as it restarts this term.
Associate Provost Katie MacLean, who is an associate professor of Spanish, said the honor of receiving the grant underscores K’s reputation for the humanities and study abroad programs.
“Study abroad is among the most popular answers students provide when they’re asked, ‘Why did you choose K?’” MacLean said. She and Jessica Fowle—K’s director of grants, fellowships and research—submitted the grant proposal on the institution’s behalf while providing proof the emergency short-term funds would combat pandemic-related issues and add value rather than apply a temporary fix.
“As a liberal arts college, the vitality of the humanities is important to our institutional identity and languages have a symbiotic relationship with study abroad,” MacLean said. “To me, this is a lot of money for humanities programs, which shows how much of an honor this is. That’s exciting for us.”
It takes dedication, perseverance and determination for the world’s best athletes to reach the Olympics, just as it did for Uyen Trinh ’21 to be a part of the behind-the-scenes efforts at the Summer Games in Tokyo. She was there to gain global career experience while working as an accountant in the Finance Department of Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS).
OBS was established through the International Olympic Committee in 2001 to produce live television, radio and digital coverage of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Organizations such as the New York Times and NBC set up, along with OBS, at Tokyo Big Sight, an international exhibition center composed of the International Broadcast Center and the Main Press Center as the Games began.
Trinh, an international student from Vietnam majoring in business and psychology with a minor in Japanese at K, played important roles processing paperwork, receipts, documents and bills for the Olympic Games while stationed in the International Broadcasting Center. A typical six-day workweek involved a one-hour commute on the subway, a trip through security and working from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day with the Olympics, lasting about a month.
Trinh gained the opportunity while studying abroad through K at Waseda University in Tokyo in 2019. At that time, a friend from the university’s Tae Kwon Do club told her about training for a position at the Olympics.
“After Tae Kwon Do practice that night, I looked up OBS right away because it sounded like a fascinating opportunity,” Trinh said. “I found out the application deadline was a day or two later, so I filled out and submitted the application right away in one sitting.”
Trinh then proceeded to interview for the accounting position.
“In the interviews, I told them I wanted to work for the Olympics because watching the Games has always given me unforgettable feelings,” she said. “And the Japanese people had been treating me really well. I thought Tokyo 2020 was a great opportunity to present Japan to the world. It was a chance for me to return the favor of their kindness and help deliver a positive image of Japan.”
Her interest in accounting made the impression she left with her interviewers even more favorable.
“I said that I wanted to do accounting because I’d been keeping track of my personal expenses and it really excited me to see numbers matching up,” Trinh said. “A week later I got a certificate saying I was qualified to work for the Olympics.”
However, in March 2020, COVID-19 began spreading, forcing Trinh to leave Japan and putting the Games in doubt.
“I still kept a close eye on the Olympics and was disheartened when they decided to postpone the Games. I questioned my chances of coming back,” Trinh said. “September 2020 was the first time I heard back from them. They asked, ‘Are you still interested in working for the Olympics?’ I thought, ‘What do you mean? This is everything I have been waiting for.’ All the logistics afterward in preparation for my departure to Japan were completed via email and the OBS portal website. I received their welcome package in February 2021 with an accreditation card, which served as my visa to enter Japan. There were a lot of requirements regarding COVID that made the week before the flight especially stressful.”
Upon her return to Japan, COVID-19 regulations required her to quarantine at a hotel for the first 14 days. She was restricted to commuting only between the hotel, OBS and a convenience store next to the hotel. After those weeks, a former host family from her time on study abroad welcomed her to stay with them.
“I learned to treasure every relationship I had with people. You never know what kind of opportunity anyone could bring to you and what your relationship could grow to be. Most of my colleagues were from countries other than Japan like Spain, Bangladesh and Greece. It’s just wonderful to think that working for the Olympics has enabled people from all over the world to meet and get to know each other regardless of the pandemic. Returning to Japan this time also made me realize how many meaningful relationships I have made during only six months of study abroad. This whole adventure was terrific and I’m so glad I was able to make it. Different from the abrupt departure last time because of COVID, I left Japan this time in peace and with more confidence in myself. This valuable experience will set the stage for my career in finance after K.”
For the third consecutive year, at least one Kalamazoo College student has placed among the top three finishers in a prestigious Japanese Speech Contest organized by Detroit’s Consulate General of Japan.
Uyen Trinh ’21 was K’s only contestant in the 25th annual event on February 20, finishing third overall, in an opportunity she’s sought for a few years, especially since returning from a study abroad experience at Waseda University in Tokyo.
“I’ve been taking Japanese courses since my first year in college, and I’ve been attending the contest in Novi since my sophomore year,” Trinh said. “I had planted in my mind the idea that I wanted to compete myself, and that desire had only gotten bigger.”
Contestants from Michigan colleges and universities drafted their own speeches in Japanese to present in front of the judges. Trinh’s speech, titled “Freedom in the Family,” discussed her family in Vietnam and her host family in Japan, while comparing the relationships between the parents and children.
“I really wanted people to feel my experience because it included a lot of personal encounters, things I witnessed in Japan and situations I have back home,” she said. “I was thinking a lot about the best ways I could read the speech aloud for people to understand what I want to communicate. My goal wasn’t really to place. I was just really happy when I finished my speech because I felt like I delivered it how I wanted it to be.”
Despite a virtual format for the contest this year, many of Trinh’s K peers and professors helped her prepare before the event, which was streamed live through YouTube. Kanase Matsuzaki ’23 organized a special lab before the contest, inviting Trinh to attend as a guest speaker. Students from two Japanese classes attended, hearing the English translation of Trinh’s speech in advance, and then asking Trinh questions in Japanese. Several attended the contest remotely to cheer her on, including three peers who watched despite personally experiencing the ongoing winter weather emergencies happening in Texas and Mexico.
Faculty members, including Associate Professor of Japanese Noriko Sugimori, listened meticulously to Trinh recite her speech in advance and offered synonyms for the most difficult words if her pronunciation wasn’t perfect.
“I’m very grateful to Sugimori Sensei and all the Japanese faculty who helped me, along with the other Japanese students,” Trinh said. “Their support made the speech possible.”
Spinning her experience forward, Trinh said she hopes to return to Japan this summer to work at Summer Olympics events, especially after COVID-19 cut her study abroad plan short. She then will graduate from K in fall and plans to work in the finance field after graduation.
“There are so many things I still want to do in Japan,” she said. “The program cancellation was announced only about two days before my departure from Japan. I hope I can relive that memory and meet my host family again.”
When most sports enthusiasts are thinking about the Super Bowl, a new book from a Kalamazoo College faculty member is focusing on a different kind of athletics competition and how it relates to creating a barrier-free society for those with disabilities.
Wen Chao Chen Associate Professor of East Asian Social Sciences Dennis Frost has unveiled More Than Medals: A History of the Paralympics and Disability Sports in Postwar Japan. The book addresses the histories of individuals, institutions and events that have played important roles in developing disability sports in Japan. Such events include the 1964 Paralympics in Tokyo, the Far East and South Pacific (FESPIC) Games for the Disabled, the Ōita International Wheelchair Marathon, the Nagano Winter Paralympics, and the 2021 Tokyo Summer Games.
Frost’s first book, Seeing Stars: Sports Celebrity, Identity and Body Culture in Modern Japan, traced the emergence and evolution of sports celebrity in Japan from the 17th through the 21st centuries. The new book, he said, is an outgrowth of that project.
“Before I taught at K, I was a teaching fellow at my undergraduate alma mater, Wittenberg University, where I taught a class on sports in East Asia,” Frost said. “Students were working on presenting a project about the Nagano Winter Olympics, and one asked if she could do her part of the presentation on the Paralympics. The student found a few media reports, but neither one of us was pleased with the limited information available on the Paralympics. So that was my first inspiration for this project.”
Frost’s interest piqued further when his youngest son, who was born with spina bifida, began taking an interest in sports.
“He’s played wheelchair tennis and sled hockey up in Grand Rapids, so I get to see some adaptive sports from his perspective, and then I’m doing my research more on the institutional side while talking about bigger scale events in Japan,” Frost said. “In some senses, it’s a project that has combined my personal and academic interests.”
For More Than Medals, Frost conducted interviews with athletes such as Suzaki Katsumi, who participated in the 1964 Tokyo Paralympic Games, the first event of its kind in Japan. Suzaki started training in disability sports just a few months before the Games using therapeutic hot springs baths at his rehabilitation facility in Ōita, Japan. As a result, he was surprised that the pool water at the Paralympics was so cold.
Such anecdotes show that in their early history events like the Paralympics were less about competition. Even today when the focus is more on elite-level competition, the significance of the Paralympics extends well beyond the playing field. Those were ideas echoed in recent years by Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko, who recognized Japan’s aging population when discussing her city’s preparations for the Olympic Games.
“The success of the Paralympics is really the key to the success of the overall Games here,” she said. “I believe putting weight on hosting a successful Paralympics is more important than a successful Olympics.”
“Part of what I was interested in with this project is understanding how you go from a situation in the 1960s, where very few people in Japan actually knew what the Paralympics were, to a point where they’re almost mainstream in Japan,” Frost said. “In preparing for 2020, the Olympics and Paralympics were treated as a perfect pair, and everybody talked about both at the same time. In 60 years, they’ve undergone a pretty dramatic shift.”
In general, Frost’s research focuses on modern Japanese history with emphases on sports, disability, militarization, and urban development. At K, he teaches courses on premodern, modern and contemporary East Asian history with a particular focus on China, Japan and Korea. He also teaches first-year and sophomore seminars in the College’s Shared Passages Program, as well as senior seminars for the History Department and the East Asian Studies Program. More Than Medals represents a Fulbright grant and a couple of National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grants that supported the project, several working trips to Japan, months spent in Tokyo with his family, and interviews with athletes, citizens and reporters, to compare a culture more adaptive to the needs of the disabled than what we traditionally might find in the United States.
“In Japan, in recent years there’s been a lot of attention more generally even beyond the Paralympics, to how we create a society that is barrier free,” Frost said. “That’s both in terms of the actual physical structures like having curb cuts and escalators and elevators instead of stairs, and also in attitudes toward people that are different in whatever way from others. There’s a lot of discussion about that in Japan. Some of those things are happening in some places in the United States, but in Japan, I think it’s become much more widespread in recent years.”
For the second year in a row, two Kalamazoo College students placed among the top three finishers in a prestigious Japanese Speech Contest organized by Detroit’s Consulate General of Japan.
Xiu Cai ’20 and Shane Spink ’20 finished second and third respectively out of dozens who represented the University of Michigan, Western Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University and Lansing Community College at the 24th Michigan Japanese Language Speech Contest. Cai and Spink are third-year Japanese students of Visiting Instructor Masanori Shiomi.
Contest participants drafted their own speeches in Japanese to present in front of three judges and an audience Feb. 9 at Michigan State University. Cai’s speech, “My Life with Accidents and Coincidences,” shared her unlikely foray into studying Japanese and how she came to love it. Spink’s speech, “How to Use Soft Power,” detailed Japan’s use of pop culture in diplomatic relations, contrasting it with the use of hard power in the United States.
Cai’s second-place finish tied Amanda Esler ’19 for the highest-ever finish for a K student in the contest.
The event “offered me a chance to meet new people and make friends with more Japanese students,” Cai said. “These intellectuals helped me learn more about the diverse perspectives of the world. However, I want to say thank you to my amazing Japanese teacher for being one of the most helpful and thoughtful teachers.”
Spink’s third-place finish was the best in the contest’s history for a K student who didn’t study abroad in Japan. Spink, a Kalamazoo native, said he believes he could have done better, but added “many of the other contestants have had far more experience with learning and practicing Japanese.” He plans to work in Japan after he graduates.
“Though it was nerve-wracking to perform a memorized speech in front of a large audience with far greater knowledge of the Japanese language than myself, it was a rewarding experience,” Spink said. “Events like these are important milestones and I will never forget this speech contest.”
Out of dozens of college and university students who applied this year, four Kalamazoo College students were invited to participate in the 23rd Michigan Japanese Language Speech Contest, a record for any college or university in the competition’s recent history, with two finishing among the top three competitors.
The contest, organized by Detroit’s Consulate General of Japan, offered 10 students from Michigan colleges and universities the opportunity to showcase their language abilities in the finals through self-made speeches delivered entirely in Japanese at the Novi Civic Center. K’s representatives have all been students in Associate Professor Noriko Sugimori’s third-year Japanese language class.
Sugimori noted a snow day prevented Amanda Esler ’19, YoungHoon (Richard) Kim ’19, Molly Brueger ’19 and Elayna Moreau ’21 from having their final dry run for the event. However, “the students worked hard and other students of Japanese also supported them in various ways,” Sugimori said, crediting her second-year Japanese language class, which developed questions about the speeches for the competitors to answer. Some even went to Novi to support their peers. “I am proud of everyone,” Sugimori said.
No K student had ever finished higher than third in the Japanese Language Speech Contest, until Esler finished second with her speech titled “The Importance of Friends.” The speech described how she turned a difficult study abroad experience into something special through the help and encouragement of her friends.
“Personally, I love public speaking,” Esler said. “The fact that through your words you can inspire or encourage someone is amazing. And in this contest, it wasn’t in English, but rather Japanese, a language that I have spent nine years of my life learning. It was such an honor and a privilege to be able to compete and share my thoughts and experiences in Japanese.”
Esler said her K experiences inspired her speech, including the support she received from Sugimori and a close friend, Naori Nishimura, who was a visiting international student from Japan.
Without them, “I wouldn’t have studied abroad in Kyoto and none of the events in my speech would have occurred. So, this is really thanks to K. … I hoped to show just how much that bond [with Nishimura] meant to me.”
Kim delivered a speech titled “Shape of Japan” and won third prize, giving K a second representative among the place-winners for the first time. He spoke about his study abroad experience in Japan and articulated his deep appreciation for the country. In his view, his appreciation for Japan can’t be fully expressed in words.
“It was an honor for me, as a student who studies Japanese,” to participate in the contest, Kim said. “It meant that I am able to perform a public speech, openly expressing my thoughts and remarks on a suggested topic, through using a language that I did not know before. … It was only possible because I had an amazing faculty member and brilliant students who spent time with me.”
Brueger, in her speech titled “Breaking Barriers,” talked about how soccer empowers participants to break language barriers and make new friends, leading to greater cross-cultural understanding.
“This was an opportunity for me to feel confident about my Japanese language skills and to compete in a fun environment with other students who share an equal love for Japanese language and culture,” Brueger said.
Moreau delivered a speech titled “The Power of Communication” about their experiences working at Osaka Suisen Fukushikai’s Work Center Hoshin, a day care center in Osaka, Japan, for adults who have intellectual disabilities. The speech focused on how staff and clients communicated and how their experience can help interactions between people in general.
“When I worked with them, I got to experience their efforts to communicate and understand each other firsthand,” Moreau said. “No matter what mistakes I made or how troublesome it was for them to try to talk to me, staff and clients alike always made the utmost effort to include me in their conversations, events and work. They were so patient with me even when they didn’t need to be, and I quickly grew to admire everyone at the Work Center. I wanted to express this admiration in my speech, to express how amazing everyone at the center was. In some way, I wanted this speech to be some small ‘thank you’ to them.”
With specialties ranging from the psychology of adolescents to Victorian literature, five Kalamazoo College professors have achieved tenure.
The milestone recognizes the scholarship and teaching they have completed to the point of tenure, and it is also a sign of confidence in the contributions they will make during their entire careers. The College’s Board of Trustees, meeting in March, voted to grant tenure to:
Fletcher holds a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of Michigan. Her scholarly work focuses on the role of culture, socialization, and decision-making on sexual health and substance use outcomes among adolescents and young adults.
Fong holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Davis. He teaches a broad range of courses in 19th- and 20th-century British literature, as well as courses in women, gender and sexuality. His research focuses on Victorian literature and culture and, more specifically, how the Victorian novel has shaped and been shaped by contemporary fiction, film and popular culture.
Heinritz holds a Ph.D. in English from Western Michigan University. She teaches courses in journalism, creative nonfiction writing, and literary theory. Her scholarly and creative work includes feature and arts reviews in journalism and memoir and flash essays in creative writing.
MacMillan holds an MBA from Harvard University. She teaches courses in marketing and management. While she comes to academia from the corporate sector, she has developed research interests in marketing-related areas as well as in the scholarship of teaching and learning.
Sugimori holds a Ph.D. in applied linguistics from Boston University. She teaches intermediate and advanced Japanese language courses, as well as select courses on Japanese culture and society taught in English. Her interests span multiple disciplines including sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, language ideology, oral history, integrating technology into teaching Japanese, and bilingualism.