Here in China I’m considered a foreign expert. In fact, I have a card that says as much and couldn’t get my residency permit unless I was considered a foreign expert. I guess since I’ve been speaking, reading and writing the language for at least 25 years then I’m an expert right.
With being a foreign expert, comes great expectations. That’s why the last two days have been filled with engagements that only came because of this professional designation. Yesterday, I was a guest judge for the local finals of a national English speech competition, and today, I attended a special awards dinner and National Day celebration for foreign experts hosted by the Anhui provincial government.
I was told I could be a judge for the English competition just a week or so after I got here. I didn’t know exactly what to expect from the competition, the competitors or my job as a judge. It was actually a great experience. This was the finals of the regional competition. Next will be the provincial level or state level then the national level. Hopefully, some of our students can make it all the way to the national finals.
I arrived and had the rules and my job explained to me and finally met some other English teachers, Chinese teachers that have been teaching here several years, a few of them acting as deans of the Foreign Language Department. They were also judges making a total of six. There were 18 competitors who gave speeches in two rounds.
The first round was a prepared speech with the topic of “A word that changed the world.” The speeches focused on various words such as volunteer, awe, window, discovery, passion and eco-friendly. Many of the speeches were very well written and presented. Some students had excellent public speaking skills and organization while others stumbled a bit and showed visual nervousness.
The second round was two-fold in nature. First the contestants gave an impromptu speech. They were given a topic with only 15 minutes to prepare. The topics, chosen by the national organization that organizes the contest, were so disparate. Some questions were very serious, deep topics like “Should euthanasia be prohibited,” “How to stop the brain drain,” “Is society better off when many people question authority,” and “What caused the food safety crisis today?” Some questions were not so serious like “Do you want to sign up for TV talent shows,” “My view on material girls,” and “TV dating: a plus or minus.”
After the impromptu speeches, each competitor was given two questions, one on their prepared speech from one of the Chinese professors and one on their impromptu speech from either myself or Melissa. This was not easy. The questions were supposed to challenge their English comprehension and ability to think quickly.
When all were done, there was a brief pause to tally the scores before announcing the winners. During this time, because we were foreign experts, we were asked to say a few words about the competition. There ended up being four tied for first place, but only two will go on to the next round. After, the competition, we were invited to go to dinner with the other judges. This was great to get to know these other teachers and assistant deans.
Huangshan Friendship Awards
Each year just before the National Day holiday, October 1, the provincial government hosts a special awards ceremony for foreign experts living and working in Anhui Province. There were about 16 recipients from all over the world with a good chunk of them from Germany, Korea (ROK) and Japan. Since I and my fellow foreign teachers at Anhui University are foreign experts, we were also invited to attend the event that is also a National Day celebration for foreign experts in the province.
I had no idea how big this thing was before I got there and wish I had worn a suit, but alas, it was too late for that. Our host for the evening was the equivalent of a lieutenant governor for the province. After the awards were presented and a few speeches made by a few recipients, our host spoke about the growth of the province’s economy and how foreign experts help immensely in its progress.
We were then treated to a dinner of specialties from the area and a wonderful selection of musical performances from the Anhui Folk Orchestra. These performances featured many soloists performing on the flute or violin or singing. There were even a couple of foreign experts who shared their folk traditions such as a couple from Australia, one of the award recipients, that sang Waltzing Matilda for us.
Throughout the dinner, our host and the deputy manager of the Anhui Department of Education visited each table offering a toast of thanks and well being for each attendee. It was a very enjoyable evening. I loved the entertainment, the food was good and I got to meet some great people including some new friends. It was an honor to be a part of this event.
Now time to get ready for the week-long National Day holiday. I’ll share my adventures in Guangzhou and Hong Kong with you probably after I get back to Hefei. Before I leave though I’ll share with you some of my students’ thoughts of China and why they love their country. Hope you all have wonderful adventures.
(On a side note, I am compiling a list of good books for my students to read for them to practice English and learn American or western culture. If you have any suggestions, please let me know and let me know what reading level such as children or young adult. Or if you have any suggestions on websites that could help them practice their English, please let me know.)