Torrey Pines Senior wins national Japanese speech contest

• Heads to Tokyo to compete for international honors

Dacoda Strack, a senior at Torrey Pines High School, competed against 15 other non-native Japanese speakers from high schools across the United States May 25 at UC Irvine in a contest sponsored by the Aurora Foundation in association with the National Japanese Language Teachers and the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles.

He won first place honors and was awarded $1,000 and a trip to Tokyo this summer to compete in the international contest. He placed third last year in the same contest and Torrey Pines presented a certificate to him for “Outstanding Achievement in World Language.”

Dacoda said, “I first became interested in languages during 5th grade when I read a Japanese comic called Fullmetal Alchemist. After looking more into it and becoming more interested in Japanese comics/animation, I started to wonder if I could delve even more into the culture by attempting to learn the language by myself.

“I started to study on my own — going from website to website looking for free Japanese courses. At the time I didn’t study any other languages, though. I was pretty much only interested in learning Japanese. My first Japanese class was in 7th grade. Then after taking Spanish for three years, I came back my junior year to take Japanese III and now this year I’m taking AP Japanese.”

Besides Japanese, Dacoda also is proficient in Spanish and French.

“In 8th grade I took Spanish I the first semester, then, at my teacher’s suggestion, I took Spanish II the second semester. During the summer I studied from the Spanish III textbook so that I could take Spanish IV the next year. After that, during my sophomore year I took AP Spanish. I’ve taken two years of French. Last year I took French III and now I’m in AP French.”

In addition to these languages, Dacoda has also dabbled with Russian, German, a tiny bit of Chinese, Portuguese and Romanian.

Dacoda, who graduates June 13 from Torrey Pines High School, will be attending the University of California Irvine this fall as an engineering student. Over the summer he is saving for college by tutoring Japanese,

math and science.