Two students from Bowdoin’s Chinese program secured major prizes over the weekend at the prestigious Chinese Bridge Speech Contest in Boston. The annual event is organized by the Confucius Institute at UMass Boston, and is designed to test students’ knowledge of Chinese language and culture at both the high school and the college level. The contest was sponsored by the office of the Chinese Consulate General in New York and by Hainan Airlines, as well as the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing China.
“After an intense first-round competition, 21 students from 15 universities, including Harvard, MIT, Boston University and Bowdoin were selected for the final competition on April 16th,” said Lisa Ahnert, Visiting Senior Lecturer in Chinese Language at Bowdoin College. Bowdoin entered two students, she said, both of whom were successful: Eduardo Jaramillo ’17, won third place among advanced level contestants, while Louis Frumer ’18, came second at the beginner level. “This is a great honor for both of them and for Bowdoin’s Chinese language program,” said Ahnert.
Ahnert collaborated with her colleague, Chinese Language and Asian Studies lecturer Xiaoke Jia, encouraging students to participate and preparing them with different options on the culture aspect. “Xiaoke Jia’s contribution was invaluable,” she said. “He was the one who spent hours working with both contestants until the last minute.”
Contestants had to give a speech of between three and four minutes – the theme was “China and me” – and then answer questions from the judges. “In addition to the speech,” said Ahnert, “Eduardo and Louis both performed a “xiangsheng”, a comic monologue which is considered a high level performing art in China due to the unique features of the Chinese language. Both of their performances were well received.”
Frumer’s skit concerned a disobedient student who frustrates his teacher by saying the opposite of what is expected from him. Jaramillo said his mini-performance was about a man who works hard for a year to train an ant, “but when he tries to perform it for a waiter in a restaurant, his one audience member accidentally squashes the ant. I played the part of the man and the waiter, in the style of a cross-talk. It was a fun competition,” he said, “and it was great to meet some students studying Chinese from other colleges and universities.”
It was a particularly memorable day for Jaramillo: As well as coming third in the advanced division, he was also among the six contestants chosen as “Hainan Airlines Cultural Ambassadors.” This means that he will be traveling to China at the end of May for a 10-day trip involving special sight-seeing tours and engagements. This is the first time Bowdoin students have participated in this particular competition, said Lisa Ahnert, “and hopefully Eduardo and Louis serve as role models and inspiration for students in the future.”