English speech competition streamed online

Yang Meiping
Learners tasked with telling stories about Chinese culture take part in the finals of a competition which went online for the first time because of COVID-19.
Yang Meiping

An English speaking contest was streamed online over the weekend because of COVID-19 with participants from all over the country telling stories about Chinese culture.

The EF Challenge was the sixth of its kind organized by EF Education First China but the first to be streamed online.

The competition invited English learners to compete in chanting ancient Chinese poems and telling stories of Chinese idioms in English in previous years, and this year’s challenge was for stories on four topics – Chinese food, architecture, intangible heritage and festivals.

Because of COVID-19, the event started online in January and received more than a million submissions from more than 300 EF learning centers in over 60 cities on the Chinese mainland.

Nine students made it into the final in preschool, primary and secondary school age groups. All spoke fluent English and dressed up to make their speeches and stories more interesting. Wang Peiran, 4, dressed in Peking Opera costume to talk about the genre. Tian Kaixin, a secondary school student, started with a story about Belgian pianist creating a charity song with Chinese bianzhong, or chime bells, during the pandemic to talk about her thoughts on the combination of Western rock and traditional Chinese music.

Wei Jikun from Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi  Zhuang Autonomous Region, was the preschool group champion. Lei Xinyi from Shanghai won the primary school group while Zhu Zhiyi, from Guangzhou in Guangdong Province, won the secondary school group.

“As an international language, English can not only empower young Chinese students in facing challenges in the new age, but also enable them to tell stories about China in English well, showing confidence in their own culture,” said Bai Jiaoyu, president of Kids & Teens at EF Education First China.

“When our children are telling stories of China in English, they have surpassed the first two phases in learning English — using it to communicate with the world and learn cultures around the world,” she said. “They are now at the third phase – using English to transmit Chinese culture.”

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