As an American-born student of Chinese-descent, GBS junior Katheryn Woo grew up with the dichotomy of studying Mandarin Chinese extra-curricularly, but speaking English at home.
Peer and GBS junior Alexandra Woo found speaking Mandarin Chinese in Hong Kong to have the power to bridge gaps between different cultures.
This spring, both students spoke about their connection with the language of Mandarin-Chinese as part of the 11th annual Chinese Bridge Speech Contest. The rigorous and well-respected showcase, hosted by the Confucius Institute at University of Massachusetts-Boston, aimed to bring Chinese speakers from across the country together to further language skills and create connections.
“This is why I encourage my students to participate in contests,” said Hong Wu, Mandarin Chinese teacher at GBS. “It’s not about competition; it’s about learning from the process and from each other.”
In order to compete, Alexandra and Katheryn, both Glenbrook Academy students, submitted an initial recording of themselves speaking in Mandarin. They were then amongst the 24 students invited to Boston to present their story in front of a panel of judges. Finalists were evaluated on speech content, understanding of Chinese culture, and use of language.
The contest judges named Alexandra as a second place winner in the beginner category and Katheryn as a second place winner in the advanced category.
“Because we are the Mandarin year in Academy, I am able dig deeper into the language and culture,” said Katheryn. “I love learning with my classmates. We are all very open-minded people, and everything we’ve experienced relating to Chinese culture has been positive.”
As finalists, both students earned a subsidized tour and trip to China over the summer. Alexandra opted to take the trip, building connections with about a dozen other Bridge finalists over the summer on a two-week expedition.
“I loved the trip so much that I want to live in China one day,” Alexandra said. “My favorite moment was when we were seamlessly speaking together in a mix of Chinese and English about our different experiences. It was such an organic blend of teenagers speaking various languages, yet completely understanding each other. The greatest part was being with a group who enjoyed Chinese as much as I do."
Wu said she commends these students for their willingness to challenge themselves and find comfort with the secondary language. The two are the first GBS award recipients from the Chinese Bridge Contest in several years.
“You can feel their confidence levels soaring after all they put into this experience,” Wu said.