Japanese Language Students Sweep J.LIVE National Competition

December 5, 2022
JLIVE Awards

Baylor students won all three awards in the College I category in national J.LIVE speech competition. Pictured here with their professors (from L) Yoshiko Gaines, Baylor students Gabreel Elsawi (bronze award), Evan Abella (silver award), Salma Battish (gold award) and Yuko Prefume, Ed.D.

Baylor becomes first university to sweep TED Talks-inspired Japanese language contest in D.C.

Contact: Shelby Cefaratti-Bertin, Baylor University Media and Public Relations | 254-327-8012 | Shelby_Cefaratti@baylor.edu | Twitter: @BaylorUMedia 

Find this news release on our website: www.baylor.edu/news 

WACO, Texas (Dec. 5, 2022) – Japanese language students from Baylor University’s Department of Modern Languages and Cultures swept the top three awards at the J.LIVE Talk (Japanese Learning Inspired Vision and Engagement), a national competition held in November at George Washington University in Washington D.C.

J.LIVE is a Japanese language speech competition inspired by TED Talks that gives both college and high school students a chance to demonstrate their presentation skills and Japanese proficiency. Baylor students Salma Battisha, Evan Abella and Gabreel Elsawi won all three awards in the College I category, representing the first time in the history of the competition that all three winners in the College I category came from the same school.

The Gold Award went to Battisha, a sophomore computer science major minoring in Japanese, for her speech titled, The Secret of Beauty. As the winner, Battisha received a cash award of $300 and a scholarship, airfare and a $3,300 stipend to study in an eight-week summer intensive Japanese language course at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan.

Abella, a senior majoring in linguistics and Spanish, received the Silver Award, which included a cash prize of $200 for his presentation, How I Learned to Ask Questions. Elsawi, a junior philosophy major with a minor in Japanese, received the Bronze Award with its cash prize of $100 for his speech, Steel-Like Heart.

“It took a great deal of commitment to participate in the J.LIVE Talk,” said Yuko Prefume, Ed.D., senior lecturer in Japanese at Baylor. “I was impressed with their dedication and determination. They spent many hours preparing for the competition late at night and on the weekend, in addition to working on their regular school assignments.”

Unlike a traditional speech contest, J.LIVE Talk emphasizes the presentation skills necessary for achieving effective communication in today’s world. This contest has personal meaning to each student as they choose their topics, with each presentation expected to have an impactful message. 

“I was very moved by how our students delivered what was important for them in Japanese,” said Yuko Prefume, Ph.D., senior lecturer in Japanese for Baylor’s Department of Modern Languages and Cultures. “It just confirms that language learning teaches the mind, and not just skills.”

In addition to the students’ awards, Prefume received a Special Teacher’s Award for mentoring Battisha. She also mentored Elsawi. Yoshiko Gaines, senior lecturer in Japanese, mentored Abella in preparation for the competition.

“Their achievements demonstrate that learning a foreign language is not only about learning skills but also about learning humanity,” Prefume said.

The final round of the competition can be viewed on YouTube.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. 


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