Success at the 2018 Midwest College Chinese Speech Contest

We just drove back from Chicago where we attended the 2018 Midwest College Chinese Speech Contest, held at Lake Forest College in Chicago yesterday. This year, our team was made of these 5 students: Collin O’Keeffe, Elizabeth Somsen, Kristine Nguyen, Jake Lee, and David Burnett. Based on their Chinese proficiency level and language background, all of the contestants were divided into six groups and our students, all non-heritage students, competed in the 1st four categories:

Group 1: 1st-year non-heritage students (2 gold medals) 
Group 2: 2nd-year non-heritage students (1 gold medal) 
Group 3: 3rd-year non-heritage students (1 gold medal) 
Group 4: 4th-year and higher non-heritage students (2 gold medal) 
Group 5: 1st- and 2nd-year heritage students (1 gold medal) 
Group 6: 3rd-year and higher heritage students (1 gold medal) 

Therefore, Collin O’Keeffe and Elizabeth Somsen tied for the gold in Group 1, Kristine Nguyen won the 1st place in Group 2, Jake Jae Yong Lee beat all the other contestants in Group 3, and David Burnett tied with another contestant from another university for the first place in Group 4. Our team once again became the biggest and incomparable winner because it brought back home five of the total eight gold medals resulted from this competition, leaving three behind to share among those contestants from other universities in the Midwest and Great Lakes areas, including the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Minnesota, Indiana University, Purdue University, University of Iowa, etc. As the gold medal winner for the highest level competition, David Burnett had the honor to give a speech on behalf of all the contestants at the banquet of the event last night. 

It is worth mentioning that this year’s organizing committee, instead of following the past practice to compete by the alphabetical order of contestants’ last name, purposely arranged all our students to be the first ones to compete within their respective groups, which we were not told until after we had checked in on site for the competition. However, our students all successfully overcame this nerve-wracking adversity and impressed both the judges and their peer contestants by giving an incredibly excellent delivery of their Chinese speeches plus a great performance of their Chinese talent shows. This once again proved the strength of our Chinese program in terms of quality teaching and training. 

Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our instructors and TAs who spent time on coaching our students before the contest. My special thanks go to my colleague Professor Weihua Zhu for her leadership as the head coach of our team, as well as Professor Hui Yu, the instructor financially sponsored by Hanban (China’s National Office Promoting Chinese Language & Culture). I would like to thank our TAs Fang Yan, Han Yan, Yanwen Wu, Yuting Lan, and our former TA Shuxiang You, who provided our contestants with on-site coaching and encouragement. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our other TAs (Zheyu Su, Josiah Stork, Bo Zhan, Yangtian Luo, and Rui Wang) for their helping our contestants prepare for this event, and to thank Ms. Haiyan Wei who has lent us with enormous logistic support and beyond. 

Attached to this message please find a photo of our contestants and some members of the coaching team, present at this event, from left to right are:  
Hongming Zhang, Fang Yan, Jake Jae Yong Lee, David Burnett, Yuting Lan, Kristine Nguyen, Yanwen Wu, Elizabeth Somsen, Collin O’Keeffe, Han Yan, Weihua Zhu, Hui Yu, and Shuxiang You. 

I am so proud of our program because we achieved this during a time when we are extremely busy, preparing a huge international conference to be held in two weeks. I am also very proud of our students, our instructors & TAs, and our supportive staff, whose joint efforts have made our program the best one again in this annual Chinese speech event in the Midwest. Please join me to congratulate our great team. 


Hongming Zhang
Professor and head of Chinese Language & Linguistics Program