Chinese growing more popular with US youth

Updated: 2015-11-02 12:00

By Hua Shengdun in Washington(China Daily USA)

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Language contest reveals American students are picking up Mandarin more quickly

While many Chinese students are sent to US high schools or colleges to study, more and more American students are showing a growing interest in learning Chinese and more about China.

Sixteen American students were selected from 12 colleges in Washington, Virginia and Maryland to take part in the 5th "Jiangsu Cup" National Chinese Speaking Competition at George Washington University on Sunday.

 Chinese growing more popular with US youth

Colleen Mulrooney, a freshman at the College of William and Mary, answers questions from a judge during her improvised speech at George Washington University on Sunday. Pan Jialiang / For China Daily

"I started to learn Chinese two years ago, simply because I think Chinese is becoming more and more important and over time and it's worthwhile for me to learn it," said Austin Price, a senior at George Mason University, who won first prize in the competition.

Caroline Lebegue, a student at William and Mary, said: "Many people choose to learn Chinese because China is getting more important and there are a lot of opportunities to find a China-related job. I'm in my second year majoring in biology and China and I'm really interested in traditional Chinese medicine and how to apply it to my modern medical knowledge."

"I went to Changchun, the capital of Jilin province in China, for two weeks," said Colleen Mulroony, a freshman at William and Mary.

"My experience there makes me want to know more about China and the Chinese people. They are very nice and we have such different cultures. I want to teach English in China so that I can learn Chinese and stay in China."

The top two contestants will be granted a full scholarship, including round-trip tickets between China and the US, two years of tuition at Nanjing University and a $333-a-month stipend. The scholarships are funded by Jiangsu provincial government, Nanjiang University and other educational institutions and private companies according to Chen Aimin, a professor at the Institute for International Students in Nanjing University.

"We realize there are a number of foreign students who are eager to learn Chinese. And the government is also looking for ways to promote the brand of Jiangsu province in the international community. I figured we could have a Chinese speaking competition abroad just like the many English speaking competitions in China," Chen said.

"In that way, we not only help the US student to know more about Chinese culture but also introduce Jiangsu to the American people. So far, the completion in Washington is the most successful event we've held," Chen added.

In general, American students are speaking Chinese better and better. All the contestants are advanced speakers. It is surprising how well they are able to speak Chinese knowing that they have learned it within just two or three years, said Zhang Quanzhen, associate professor at the Institute for International Students in Nanjing University.

Pan Jialiang contributed to this story

(China Daily USA 11/02/2015 page2)