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LOHS students succeed at Japan Bowl

Seniors win first at Pacific Northwest competition and advance to D.C.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: COURTESY OF LOHS - Lake Oswego High School seniors Nathan Wong and Jessica Weis won in their category in the inaugural Pacific Northwest Japan Bowl on March 11, and they earned a trip to nationals in D.C. April 6-7. From left: Teacher Charlotte Stewart, Wong, Weis and assistant teacher Hina Oishi.Lake Oswego High School seniors Nathan Wong and Jessica Weis won in their category in the inaugural Pacific Northwest Japan Bowl on March 11, and earned a trip from April 6-7 to the 25th Anniversary National Japan Bowl in Washington, D.C.

Wong and Weis were the two-person team that triumphed in Level 4 Japanese in a trivia-style competition covering history, culture and language.

"Nathan is very good at the language portion," Weis says proudly.

But Wong simply says she's the one with a prodigious knowledge of the characters in the complex phonetic script.

"We just had a really good, balanced team," Weis notes.

The pair didn't win an award at nationals, but the duo is pleased with their performance for their school's first attempt at the local and national competition. Wong says he also gleaned a great deal from the experience, such as learning the prefectures, or states, of Japan.

"I don't think I would know all of them if I hadn't been to Japan Bowl," he says.

He also reveled in meeting like-minded students.

"I definitely think that one of the fun parts was … once you got there that all of these students were interested in Japanese," he says.

The Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C., sparked the competition in 1992, but there wasn't even a local competition to qualify for the big event until this year. Japan-America Society of Oregon got support from fellow societies in D.C. and Southern California to bring the event to the Pacific Northwest, right in Lake Oswego's backyard at Portland State University.

Charlotte Stewart, who teaches Japanese at Lakeridge and Lake Oswego high schools, says that about 10 students from both of her schools participated in the Pacific Northwest event. In addition to the LOHS award, Lakeridge earned third in the Level 4 Japanese category and LOHS received third in Level 3 Japanese. Although teams performed well, Stewart simply wanted her students to learn.

"It was a good opportunity for them to have a reason to study and use Japanese outside of the classroom," says Stewart, chairwoman of the World Languages Department at LOHS.

Assistant teacher Hina Oishi says that students studied hard after school to prepare for the competition, and as a native speaker, she drew from her own knowledge of key phrases to advance students' language skills. Not all of Japanese is intuitive, although many of the language's words came to be through sound, Oishi explains.

"We have a lot of onomatopoeia," she says.

Stewart says students are already excited about next year because they love the culture and language of Japan, onomatopoeia and all.

"When you love something, you dive in and learn more about it," she explains.

For more information about taking Japanese at Lake Oswego or Lakeridge high schools, visit http://bit.ly/LOSDJpn.

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Jillian Daley at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..