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UWRF student speaks seven languages, wins Japanese award

April 22, 2015

UW-River Falls sophomore Kevin Leor can speak seven languages and recently won a prestigious award at the 29th annual Japanese Language Speech Contest.

Leor is a native Spanish speaker from Monterrey, Mexico. He became interested in learning new languages at a young age. Leor first learned English, then French. Leor is also fluent in Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Japanese and his native language, Spanish. Naturally, Leor is a modern language major at UWRF.

For many people, learning a new language is a difficult task, but Leor says that it is something that he has a passion for.

“I just teach myself. It’s something that comes easy to me,” Leor said. “The most challenging part about it is that I don’t have anyone to practice with, but it is something that comes natural to me.”

Over spring break, Leor participated and won an award in the 29th annual Japanese Language Speech Contest, at the Consulate General of Japan-Chicago. Japanese language instructor Magara Maeda helped Leor with his speech and she isn’t surprised with his skill for languages.

“His hard work puts him where he is right not,” Maeda said. “I really admire him for knowing so many different languages.”

Leor wanted to use his opportunity at the speech contest to raise awareness about all of the violence that is going on in Mexico. Last year on Sept. 26 there were 43 male college students who were going to hold a protest at a conference. On their way to the protest they were detained and are assumed to be killed, and the village mayor and his wife are linked to the killings, but no arrest have been made.

Winning an award at the contest was a long process, Leor first came with the speech idea to Maeda, then they composed it into Japanese together. Once the speech was written down, Leor then recorded the audio of himself performing the speech and sent that along with the transcript to the Consulate General. Then, the material was judged and he was notified that he was a finalist, and he could recite the speech in Chicago, Illinois.

Maeda said that it was a lot of fun working with Leor and his speech. The contest took place during spring break and when Leor was in Chicago, Maeda was in Washington D.C. for vacation and they talked together on Skype to practice the speech.

Maeda is hoping that other students will become interested in modern language because of Leor and possibly look at him as a role model.

“I hope that other students are inspired by his hard work,” Maeda said.

At this point, Leor isn’t sure if he is going to learn another language. He said that he is just going to stick with the ones he know for now, but he knows what language he will learn next if he decides to learn another.

“I live with a bunch of Chinese people, so I will probably learn Chinese, but I think that it’ll be really hard,” Leor said.

If anyone would be able to learn Chinese there is little doubt that it would be Leor.