Chinese entrants in intl public speaking contest fight hard

Updated: 2016-05-13 00:03

By Cecily Liu(

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Chinese entrants in intl public speaking contest fight hard

Chen Mengzhu delivers her speech at the first round of the International Public Speaking Competition in London , May 12, 2016. [Photo by Cecily Liu/]

Winners of the China Daily-organized 21st Century Coca-Cola Cup National English Speaking Competition put up a strong fight at the first round of the International Public Speaking Competition in London on Thursday.

Wang Xiwen, 17, a high school student at Shanghai Foreign Language School, and Chen Mengzhu, 19, a second year student of New York University Shanghai, impressed audience and judges with their speeches, delivered with fluency, confidence and impact.

Chen's speech addressed the importance of focusing on solutions for pollution, and Wang spoke about the benefits of thinking positively. Contestants give 5 minute speeches, followed by questions from the audience.

This international competition is hosted by the non-profit organization English Speaking Union, with about 50 outstanding participants from 48 countries coming to London to compete. The list of participants for Friday's semi-finals will be announced on Friday morning.

The outstanding performance of the Chinese students at the international competition coincides with the growing trend of Chinese students' increasingly dedicating their time to English learning.

The China leg of the competition, the "21st Century Cup," was started in 1996 by China Daily. Liu Xing, and Xia Peng, China's national champions in 1996 and 2005 respectively, have also won the international competition.

Jane Easton, director general of ESU, said that Chinese contestants' speech standards are very high. She added that the international public competition is very important for the work of ESU, which supports the improvement of English speech globally, which is particularly useful in sectors involving international cooperation, like business, the internet, the arts and education. "English can become the language that brings together countries who may not share each other's languages," she said.

Michael Yip, one of the judges, said the quality of the Chinese contestants' speeches were "as good as anywhere else in the world". "A long time ago you'd see a large disparity for the quality of English in China, but now people are so good at public speaking that they'll perform just as well (as other countries' speakers) in competitions like this," said Yip.

Xia, the competition's 2005 champion, who now acts as the leader for the Chinese contestants' delegation, said the international public competition greatly helps Chinese students to learn English in a way that emphasizes communication, so they can put what they learn in the classroom into practice.

Xia met with the two Chinese contestants in London a week before the competition, and led five training sessions with them during the week. The sessions worked towards creating a good theme for the competition, question answering skills and techniques, and delivery skills.

"Doing well in a competition like this is not just about speech content. Delivery, in knowing when to slow down and when to push forward one's message strongly are key to making an impact, which is the purpose of making a speech," Xia says.

In addition, the technique of incorporating China specific context into one's speech is highly recommended, according to Xia. "If the purpose of the speech is to make an impact, it's then recommended that students share with an international audience what is already familiar to them."

Chen said she felt it is a great honor to participate in the competition. "I really enjoyed meeting my fellow contestants, who are young people from all over the world, and hearing more about their perspectives on life." During the same week of the competition, the contestants went on an excursion to see more of London, including visits to the House of Parliament, British Broadcasting Corporation's TV studios and Hampton Court Palace.

"I used to think that coming to a competition like this would mean I need to choose between either working hard towards winning or being able to enjoy the process, but this trip allowed me to realize I can do both," said Chen.

Wang is in London accompanied by her mother Wang Yue and father Qian Zhongqi, who are proud to see their daughter's performance. Wang said her daughter has always been a high achiever at school and handles her own academic and extracurricular activities well, therefore she rarely needed to worry.

"We are in London to support our daughter, to help her feel she is not alone in this competition. She said she is glad to have us in the audience, as it boosts her confidence," Wang said.

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