Every year, China’s Confucius Institute hosts a “Chinese Bridge” U.S. High School Student Chinese Speech Contest. To compete in this contest, students must submit an application, including a three-minute Chinese speech. On Saturday, April 12, twenty-four finalists from around the country congregated at UMASS Boston to participate in this prestigious competition. Belmont Hill has sent a couple of students to this event in the past, and this year, Fifth Former Jake DeCaprio had the opportunity to represent Belmont Hill.
Jake, who has studied Chinese since he enrolled at Belmont Hill, regards Chinese as both one of his favorite subjects and an intellectual passion. When asked about why he decided to participate in this contest, Jake said, “This September, Shen Laoshi approached me about doing it. I’ve always been very passionate about studying Chinese and have always worked really hard to make sure I have a good Chinese accent. To be able to compete in a competition like this is an honor and reward for all my work.” Since this September, Jake spent his free periods with Shen Laoshi to come up with a topic, write a speech, and practice it to make it is “as perfect as possible.”
Jake competed with seven others in the contest’s intermediate group (for students who have studied fewer than four years of Chinese). In his speech, “The Language Switch,” Jake discussed the difficulty of switching between speaking English and Chinese. With the aid of Shen Laoshi, Jake delivered clever Chinese puns that had the Chinese judges howling. Jake closed his speech with a humorous anecdote, in which he unknowingly gave directions to an American man in Chinese, and concluded that the struggle of seamlessly switching languages indicates that his Chinese is continuously improving.
At the end of the day, Jake was awarded third place for his speech and received a certificate, trophy, and Chinese dictionary for his achievement. Jake described the overall experience: “I never really did any public speaking, especially in a different language. It was a totally different experience than anything before. I’m very appreciative for Shen Laoshi and for this opportunity.” One of the best Chinese students in America, Jake represented Belmont Hill exceptionally well in both his spirit and skill.