Language contest wows judges

Updated: 2015-05-04 11:21

By Dong Leshuo in College Park, Maryland(China Daily USA)

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Language contest wows judges

Second grade students from West Side Elementary at Cumberland, Maryland, perform selections from a Beijing opera at Washington preliminary round of the 8th "Chinese Bridge" Chinese Proficiency Competition on May 2. The team won a first prize and loud applause. [Photo by Dong Leshuo/China Daily]

About 200 students, teachers and parents gathered at the University of Maryland for the preliminary round of the eighth Washington Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition on May 2.

The competition, divided into elementary and high school levels, incorporates elements of speech, performances and quizzes.

Alana Barry, whose Chinese name is Bai Xuehua, a 10th grade student at Sidwell Friends School, won first prize in the high school competition.

In her speech, Barry talked about how she made friends by playing basketball while she was at the Second High School Affiliated to Beijing Normal University, Sidwell's sister school in China.

Sidwell, a pre-K-12, co-ed Quaker day school, has had an extensive Chinese studies program, through which the US president's daughter Sasha Obama and the vice-president's granddaughter Maisy Biden toured China in March.

"I really like the Chinese program at our school," Barry told China Daily. "I have been learning Chinese since seventh grade. I wasn't sure I liked it in the beginning but now I totally enjoy it. It's my favorite class."

"We do a lot of stories," said Xuan Wang, Sidwell's Chinese teacher, "then we expand the stories into dialogues, conversations, reading and writing. It's an interactive method since we involve the students all the time."

"They are wonderful teachers and the school has been very supportive of the teaching of the language and the culture," said Elizabeth Eder, Barry's mother.

"I think the language training and exchange program is important for the students," said Leigh Gilman, chair of Sidwell's upper school language department.

First prize in the elementary school level went to 12 second graders from the West Side Elementary School, Cumberland, Maryland. The children performed selections from a Beijing opera, which earned them a lot of applause.

Ke Hu, a Chinese teacher at West Side Elementary, explained how their Chinese immersion program worked: "We spend half of the day learning Chinese everyday. Besides the Chinese class, we also teach math and science in Chinese. We require all the language used in class to be Chinese."

"The biggest challenge is the lack of teaching materials," Hu said. "We only have a syllabus; we have to develop all our teaching materials by ourselves."

"We are very happy to see the kids making such notable progress," said Xiaoxia Zhang, Chinese immersion coordinator at Baltimore International Academy, who has been teaching Chinese for eight years.

"We love doing this. We love every cultural event that we get to go to," said Morgan Morehead, the mother of Ilah and Ivie Boord, 7-year-old twin sisters who won second prize in the elementary division.

The winners of the competition will earn a trip to attend the finals in Beijing.