John and I were asked to be part of a panel of 6 judges for the 18th China Daily "21st Century Coca-Cola Cup" National English Speaking Competition. This was the qualifying round held on the old campus of Shandong University. The theme this year is "My view on social networking." The 16 speakers took about 3 hours to compete.
Each speaker had to give a 3 minute prepared speech...then give an impromptu speech for 2 minutes on a random topic given to them on stage...and then give some kind of performance in English for no longer than 3 minutes which included singing, film dubbing or poetry reading.
We were asked to judge the speakers on speech content, language quality and general impression for a maximum of 100 points.
These freshmen, sophomores and juniors put their whole heart and soul into their incredible efforts. I was blown away.
Afterward we had a chance to meet some of the students. One was a sophomore who switched her major from philosophy to law and now, as a sophomore, must catch up with the other law students so she is taking 20 classes. Her speech was strong and but so was her accent, lacking the necessary linking, pauses and inflections common in English speech. In spite of her herculean effort she did not place among the winners and had a polite brave mask over her disappointment. As she walked away I had the strongest feeling to call after her and invite her to dinner with us and Dongxin, another of the judges.
Note to self: ALWAYS follow that voice! What a delightful and profound encounter. I wish you could meet a Jing Ming: humble, confident, extremely hardworking, interesting to talk to and she's got to have an IQ close to 160. She was one of those high school students who tested high enough to be accepted into a top high school which required that she live in a dormitory because it was too far from her home. Also, the course work in this particular high school was so demanding that those students never had summer of winter breaks off to be home with family.
BTW I found out later this evening that the grand prize winner was one of my sophomore writing students.