The UNMEI Expo 2016

October 16 was a big day for the multicultural community of Japanese language enthusiasts in the Philippines. Consequently, it was also a big day to be feared. A week before the event, headlines everywhere pointed out to that one name that we probably were too familiar with as a sweet and simple regular friend, Karen—Typhoon Karen.

Unfortunately for Typhoon Karen, it stopped neither us nor the festivities of celebrating the Japanese culture. The typhoon did not stop the sakura trees from blossoming. The backdrop mimicked a river surrounded by cherry blossoms.

The UNMEI Expo 2016 was held on Sunday at the SMX Convention Center Manila as the first-ever expo to be organized as a career fair, a study fair, and a cultural fair, all at once. The event was the brainchild of the people at UNMEI Nihongo Center, “the no. 1 Japanese language center in the Philippines.”

Despite the chaotic weather outside the convention center, inside the event was as sunny as everyone’s smiles. Various corporations, such as 3M, Fujitsu Philippines, and Accenture Philippines, presented endless opportunities for those who wish to pursue a professional career related to the Japanese language. Everyone was so eager to learn Japanese right away with the hopes and possibilities of joining multinational corporations. And how do you learn Japanese in a fun and effective way? You immerse yourself in their culture. From a gyuudon eating contest to a Jpop (Japanese Pop) singing contest, every corner of the room was Japan-inspired.

Most of the exhibitors wanted to inspire the attendees on the possibility of having a career with the help of the Japanese language. Being an interpretation agency, we wanted them to go beyond that. We wanted to inspire them on having the knowledge and skills on speaking Japanese as their main focus on career growth. We wanted to inspire them to become interpreters—the unsung heroes who break the language barriers all over the world. Cindy, a De La Salle University student and a participant, told us upfront, “I’ve always wanted to become an interpreter.” She then burst with excitement when we told her that she could try being one for a moment. We brought an actual interpretation booth complete with soundproofing, a headphone, a microphone, a laptop, and sample recordings of speeches that will challenge them on different levels for simultaneous interpretation.

As the photos are enough evidence, everyone who tried the challenge enjoyed the experience. Some were astonished by being in an interpretation booth where the only sound they could hear was from their headphones and their own voices. Some were so serious that you could see them anxious about trying out the challenge. They went as far as exercising their vocal cords with Do-Re-Mis. Some, on the other hand, just burst into laughter because they could not interpret any sentence at all. More than these individual experiences aside, they were thankful for the experience in the end as they now have a clear understanding on why interpreters are labeled as unsung heroes. As Cindy told me on a heartfelt note, “I didn’t know that an interpreter’s job was this difficult. You can end wars or even start one.”