CI’s Chinese Bridge Competition 2021

Last Sunday the Confucius institute at University Canterbury (CIUC) held the annual Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition for the Upper-South Island region. Contestants showcased their Chinese abilities on a national and international level by delivering a speech in Chinese and doing a talent performance relevant to Chinese culture.

The contestants are made up of 9 junior students, 8 senior high school students and 4 tertiary students. The contest was split into two categories, with the Highschool students in one category and the tertiary students in the second.  For the Junior and Senior students this contest was their semi-final and for the tertiary students this contest was the South Island final.

The contest kicked off with speeches by the junior and senior students, who had to discuss their journey learning Chinese. From people who have previously lived or visited China, those who are planning to live there in the future, those who are curious about the culture and to those who found motivation to study Chinese in their love for Chinese pop-culture, we heard many different journeys and thoughts on what learning Chinese meant to many people today.

The tertiary students, on the other hand, gave their speech on “one world, one family”. There were many interesting interpretations and thoughts on this. Such as, the importance of trade with China and another contestant spoke on Chinese being the second most spoken language after English and how it can help them connect with the world outside of New Zealand.

This year however there was noticeably more diversity among the contestants and for some Chinese will be their third or even fourth language. In an increasingly globalized world where we are constantly in contact with other languages and cultures, many young people are harnessing the opportunity to learn as many languages as possible.

The contestants collectively presented an array of different talents including, calligraphy, Tea art, singing, Chinese tongue twisters, poetry, Chinese paper cutting, Tai Chi fan demonstration, and even Chinese-style comedy performances.

Isn’t that just stand-up comedy in Chinese? Well…yes, BUT there are some styles which are unique to China. One contestant did a Xiang Sheng performance, rather than delivering a monologue, this style involves two people on stage having a conversation.

We also got to see a Shuang Huang performance, a style of comedy where two people are on stage and the first person sits behind the second and gives the second person commands. In a nutshell, if there was a crossover between Simon says and slapstick comedy this would be it.

Overall, it was quite the display of Chinese culture and talent on the contestant’s part. Dr Chia-rong Wu, a senior lecturer at UC and director of CIUC commented “I was truly impressed by their wonderful speeches and performances, I definitely was not as talented as they were when I was their age.”

The awards ceremony was kicked off by a speech from Dr Chia-Rong Wu who shared some of his personal struggles from when he had been learning English. Anyone who has attempted to learn a second language knows that well…it’s hard.

But despite the hurdles, Dr Chia-Rong Wu encouraged students to not give up and of the importance and benefits of learning a second language, from new career opportunities to unlocking the ability to connect with a culture and its people on a deeper level.

The President of the New Zealand Chinese Teachers Association in Canterbury, Feng Huili also gave a few words. Commending students on all their progress and to see how far they have come from when they first began learning Mandarin to now where they are competing on a National level.

The award ceremony was wrapped up with presenting awards to the top contestants, encores by the best talent performances, and of course photos.

So, what happens next? Six junior contestants and six senior contestants will move to the South Island Finals on the 13th of June and will compete against the lower-south Island Finalists.

The winning contestant from the tertiary students will get to represent New Zealand on an international stage and if travel becomes a possibility again then both the winning tertiary contestant and the runner up will win an all-expenses-paid trip around China.

Sinead Pinto Miles

Zhengnan Shen