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Mason to Host Winners of China’s English Speaking Contest

January 15, 2010

By Catherine Ferraro

While many of us participated in spelling and geography bees in school, college students in China take part in a different kind of contest. Approximately 8 million college students from 600 colleges and universities throughout China compete in the annual China Central TV (CCTV) Cup English Speaking Contest. The top three winners of the 2009 contest were awarded a trip to Mason this summer.

The goal of the contest, which has been held for the past seven years, is to stimulate interest in learning English, improve students’ English skills and highlight the development of English teaching in higher education institutions.

During the competition, students prepared a five-minute speech, responded to judges’ questions and participated in a debate with other students.

After months of intense competition, Liyang Shan, a student at Beijing Foreign Studies University, emerged as the champion. The runners up are Xinkan Zhao from Peking University and Huan Wang from Hunan University.

Mason became a prime candidate to host the winners after Connie Gibson, an English teacher at Jiangxi Normal University and contest judge, visited Mason last summer. During her visit, she participated in Mason’s Institute of Forensicsand met with Peter Pober, professor of communication and institute director.

Gibson also met with Karl Zhang, Mason’s Chinese language programdirector, and discussed how Mason’s Confucius Institute, of which he is co-director, could get involved.

Although the contest winners traditionally travel to Oxford University to take part in an international relations conference, Gibson decided it would be beneficial for the students to visit Mason to take part in the Institute of Forensics.

During their stay on campus, the winners will spend a week with other students from around the country in the Institute of Forensics’ Original Oratory Lab. In this lab, students will learn how to choose topics, research, write drafts and learn the fine points of delivery.

“It is a great opportunity for the winners of the English speaking contest to visit Mason and participate in Mason’s Institute of Forensics, where they will gain exposure to some of the more intricate aspects of developing argumentation,” says Pober. “At Mason, we are happy to have the opportunity to provide the kind of curriculum and training to which these students may not have access.”

GMU-TV plans to produce a short program that documents the students’ participation in the Institute of Forensics.

Through the Confucius Institute, the students will also visit several schools and organizations in Washington, D.C., to give presentations about Chinese culture and language.

“Being able to host the winners of the contest benefits both the students and the university,” says Zhang.

“The students have the opportunity to study with some of the most accomplished individuals in the Institute of Forensics, and the visibility this gives Mason will continue to strengthen its relationship with China.”

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