skip to Main Content

Fifty years of the Japanese Speech Contest: David Harvey

Interview: David Harvey


 “Do it! Try everything you can.  It is just another stepping stone to what might come for you later.  You might be scared of giving a speech, but the more speeches you give, the easier it becomes.  The first one’s allowed to be scary.”

Like many other successful contestants in the early years of the Speech Contest, David first encountered Japanese as a high school exchange student in 1976.  Before going to Japan, he had intended to study music at University, but after returning and completing year 12, he decided to pursue Japanese, electing to study a Japanese major within a Science degree at Monash University.  He entered the Victorian Speech Contest in 1978, with a speech on the Suzuki Method for music teaching, but did not gain a place. The following year he tried again with a humorous speech on Japanese baths, gaining second place, and a trip to the ANU to represent Victoria in the National Speech Contest Final. (In those days, both first and second place winners in State finals were able to compete in the National Final).   He then entered a third time in 1980 in his third year at University, with a playful speech on hayakuchi-kotoba (tongue-twisters), winning the Victorian Contest and placing second in the National Contest, held that year in Melbourne. 

David Harvey, then and now. 

Commenting on his persistence in entering the contest three times, David said that apart from wanting to win a trip back to Japan, he enjoyed the challenge and could see the benefits for his Japanese.  Learning and rehearsing a speech with guidance from his teacher provided a unique opportunity to concentrate on improving his delivery, particularly his intonation. He still has copies of his speeches, with the intonation markings he used to practice.

After graduation, he had no clear plan for a career, but an introduction through one of his University teachers secured him a job at a Japanese futures company in Melbourne. His next job with a Japanese automotive company was obtained through connections in his Friday night mah-jong group, and two years later he obtained a job with the Industrial Bank of Japan (IBJ) in Melbourne, as its first non-Japanese executive, again through word of mouth and connections within the community. He later relocated to IBJ in Sydney and then moved to IBJ (now Mizuho) in Japan in 1995. Since moving to the US in 2001, where he lived for almost ten years, he has continued to do contract work for the Mizuho Financial Group and others.  He has established himself as a consultant and specialist translator, working on projects for institutions such as the Bank of Japan, the Financial Services Agency and the Ministry of Finance, but also including work with a more cultural focus.

David maintains that, from his initial decision to go to Japan, his life and career have developed rather randomly, each step shaped by his pursuit of his interests, building on his strengths and through personal connections and the opportunities they opened up.  Looking back, the thread is clear, but that was not necessarily the case at the time. However, learning Japanese and developing a deep understanding of Japanese culture and society has changed him completely.  “Japan has been a core part of my life – no question about that.”  

When asked about the benefits of participating in the Speech Contest, David noted that the advantage of any competition is that it gives you a focus and a particular goal to work towards.  In the case of the Speech Contest, it provides the motivation for concentrated bursts of writing, practicing, and building up your ability to perform in front of others.  His advice?

 “Do it! Try everything you can.  It is just another stepping stone to what might come for you later.  You might be scared of giving a speech, but the more speeches you give, the easier it becomes.  The first one’s allowed to be scary.”

Profile: David Harvey

David Harvey has had an international career in Australia, Japan and the US, having worked in the Japanese finance industry for more than 30 years.  He is a director of the Asian Finance Group, which specialises in research on Asia and translation of business, finance documents and policy papers. He holds a Bachelor of Science, Graduate Diploma in Banking and Finance and Graduate Diploma of Japanese Studies from Monash University.  He also maintains a strong interest in music and community organisations, and is currently a board member of Music for Canberra. 


Read Chris Nailer’s interview here

Read Monica Pinda’s interview here

Read Veronica Taylor’s interview here

Back To Top