Wednesday, March 28, 2007

English Speaking Contest

So I've been trying to get this post up for a few days now...but I haven't been able to access my blog for about 5 days. I was convinced that China had put a clamp on or something. But today, all is better and I figure I should throw a blog up quick before it happens again!

Last Sunday, I was outside my campus limits at 7:30 to be picked up by Common Talk's driver and head downtown. Instead of going to my regular office, I was headed off to another high rise where "EF: English First's" offices are. The two organizations are working in conjunction to conduct what is Common Talk's largest and most heavily promoted annual event: the Fujian Province English Speaking Contest.

I was asked to be a judge for the event, the youngest they've ever had. Its a serious event too. Last year they had over 4,000 contestants enter. It was myself and 5 other judges to handle the opening day's round.

Myself and one other gentleman were in charge of all the middle school student's. These kids ranged from 12-15 years old. Getting my own office, I would sit behind my desk while one student at a time would enter and have 60 seconds to give a rehearsed speech in english. The subject was "My Biggest Dream."

For me, it was a personally rewarding experience due in large part to the topic. I found it fascinating to hear what Chinese youth were most excited about for their futures. In some ways I was surprised by the differences, and in other ways intrigued at some similar answers I would expect from American kids. I personally oversaw probably 250 students by the end of a full 8 hour day of scoring. Talking to that many youth, certain trends showed.

Many of them wanted to be doctors, and I was surprised to see that the other most popular answer was becoming a reporter. Their dreams seemed very giving and surprisingly mature. This can be attributed to the way that Chinese culture puts so much emphasis on the community as opposed to the individual. Many young girls wanted to take their careers and go to the incredibly poor western provinces and provide aid. I was pleasantly taken to find that many boys were well aware of the environmental challenges now facing the world, and especially, their own country. They knew of troubles with their polluted rivers, specific events and areas in trouble, etc...

The day was enlightening, exciting, and a great overall learning experience for me. The only sad part was having to rank and score the students, as I could only pass about half of them. Of those passed, I should get to see them again in the upcoming 2nd round being held in mid-April. The final round will actually be televised throughout the province, and chances are, I wont be around to participate in that which is a shame.

More as it comes...

My two, very kind chief editors after a hard day's judging.

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