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Top awards for ACG students in Chinese speech contest

Reciting an ancient Chinese poem in both contemporary Mandarin and a 3000-year-old Chinese dialect is no easy task. But it was a winning recipe for ACG Parnell’s Jake Doyle, who took out first place in the Senior division of the 2020 Chinese Bridge Speech Competition earlier this month.

Not only that, but the talented linguist also received the prestigious New Zealand China Council Award.

“When I got the email announcing the results, I gasped out loud. I was shocked and happy. I really wasn’t expecting to come first and getting the New Zealand China Council Award was a really cool bonus to something that was already pretty awesome,” says Jake.

Now in its thirteenth year the Chinese Bridge Speech Competition, considered to be the world’s most famous international Chinese language competition for non-native speakers, is organised by the Confucius Institutes worldwide. Participants compete in two different sections – a cultural performance and a speech. Jake’s poetry recital was accompanied by an outstanding speech about Covid-19, and the different ways the world was uniting to fight the pandemic.

The dedicated Year 13 student has been studying Chinese since Year 7 and is no stranger to the competition. In 2016 he placed second in the Junior division, and in 2017 he placed third.

“Chinese is a super useful language especially now as China becomes more of a player on the world stage. I find the Chinese culture and language really interesting, especially ancient China and the way characters are formed like little artworks.”

Jake’s love of the subject inspires him to work hard and preparing for the Chinese Bridge Speech Competition was no exception.

“I spent a week drafting the speech and then the next couple of months practising and memorising it.”

Jake says having the support of his Chinese teacher and coach Josephine Chin was invaluable.

“Every extra hour I was practising my speech was an extra hour Miss Chin was helping me. I definitely couldn’t have got as far as I did without that kind of support from her, and for that I’m extremely thankful.”

Josephine was delighted with his efforts.

“It is very satisfying to see such a lively young student enjoying his learning and having the discipline to practise character writing,” says Josephine.

“Jake sat the Cambridge IGCSE Examinations in Chinese last year and scored A* (90% and above), which was a testimony of his continued effort. I am thrilled that his journey learning Chinese has given him wonderful results and shaped him as a person.”

This year saw 35 secondary school students from Auckland to Dunedin battle it out via Zoom for top Junior and Senior rankings in the competition – and Jake wasn’t the only one from ACG to gain recognition.

Colden Sapir (Year 10) came first in the Junior division at the regionals – for the second consecutive year – and placed fourth in the nationals.

“The highlight for me was a comment from one of the judges who described my speech as ‘like a native speaker’,” says Colden, who also played the guitar and sang a Chinese song as part of the cultural performance section of the competition.

According to Colden, his teacher and coach Chaohai Cui played a leading role in his success.

“Mr Cui’s guidance in preparing for this competition has been immeasurably helpful. He has consistently and patiently addressed my mispronunciation and grammatical blunders, hence deserving at least as much recognition as I do. In any language, I am at a loss for words to express my gratitude.”

But for Chaohai, Colden’s excellent results came as no surprise.

“Colden is very enthusiastic about Chinese language and culture; he is inquisitive and diligent. He achieves extraordinary results in his Chinese assessments and is one of the top students of Year 10 Chinese.”

There’s no doubt though that having first-class teachers is a big benefit, and Chaohai and Josephine have both been worth their weight in gold. In fact, the pair received their own personal recognition at this year’s competition, each coming away with an Outstanding Coach award.

Adds Josephine, “I have been awarded Outstanding Coach a few times. I welcome the recognition, of course, but the reason I keep helping my students to take part in the competition is to stretch them and help them build up their confidence to live life to the fullest.”