Contest touts cream of young English speakers

Updated: 2013-03-25 07:58

By Zhang Chunmei in Xiamen, Fujian and Wang Zi in Beijing (China Daily)

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 Contest touts cream of young English speakers

Li Weihong (left), vice-minister of education, and Xiamen Party chief Yu Weiguo present the top prize to Wu Po-te (center) from Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan, at the award ceremony of the 18th "21st Century Coca-Cola Cup" National English Speaking Competition on Sunday in Xiamen, Fujian province. Hu Meidong / China Daily

Wu Po-te from Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan outshone 17 other finalists on Sunday to win the "21st Century Coca-Cola Cup" national English speaking competition.

The 24-year-old clinical psychology and English double-major became the 18th winner of the event, sponsored this year by China Daily, the Xiamen city government and Coca-Cola.

"It was such a surprise for me to win the title, up against all this top talent from across the country.

"This is my first time traveling to the mainland, and I am happy to have made so many good friends throughout the competition," Wu said after winning the final at Xiamen People's Hall in Fujian province.

Wu eventually triumphed over 10,104 participants from 789 universities who had taken part in the nationwide event over the past 11 months.

They had been asked to discuss the title, "The Road Not Taken in Life" in a prepared speech.

The contestants were whittled down to Sunday's final 18, through a series of online, campus and regional rounds.

Shen You, an English major from Tsinghua University, was the first runner-up and also won the "China Daily 21st Century Most Promising Speaker" award.

She will now represent the Chinese mainland at the International Public Speaking Competition, launched by the English-Speaking Union, in London in May.

The 20 years old will be accompanied by Fu Shuning, 17, from Nanchang Foreign Language School, who also distinguished herself in front of judges marking the high school session.

Li Weihong, vice-minister of education, and Yu Weiguo, Xiamen Party chief, presented the top prize to Wu.

Li commended the competition for its efforts at promoting the quality of the country's English language education.

"The competition's encouragement of developing independent thinking and in building character, is of great relevance to the country's educational reforms and its teaching of English," said Li.

Bai Changbo, the vice-president of Coca-Cola Greater China, said the competition illustrated what great promise there is in China's youth, and reiterated Coca-Cola's continued support of the country's educational development.

"The contestants demonstrated a flair so representative of China's younger generation, and showed us the kind of positive energy needed to achieve the Chinese dream," Bai said. "This competition has no losers."

Hou Yiling, a professor of English at Beijing Foreign Studies University, who acted as the grand final's question master, praised the students' performance throughout the final.

"I thought the topic was quite challenging for the young contestants," said Hou. "But I was impressed how comfortable they seemed delivering their speeches."

Since starting in 1996, the competition has become a great international showcase for some of China's elite young English speakers. Many past contestants have gone on to become the country's top interpreters, broadcasters and journalists.

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(China Daily 03/25/2013 page2)