Brendan Dowling, a recent University of Wisconsin–Madison graduate, placed first among U.S. students and third among students from the Americas at the 13th Chinese Bridge – Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students, held July 2-August 3 in Changsha, the capital of China’s Hunan Province.
Also, a team of UW-Madison students competing against peers from other U.S. institutions finished with the highest percentage of medalists at the 2014 Chinese Speech Contest of U.S. Summer Programs in China.
The 13th Chinese Bridge is a large-scale international competition organized by the Hanban (the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language). The 126 participants, who represent 87 countries, qualified for the competition through 110 regional contests.
Dowling, of Carpentersville, IL, earned his spot by winning a gold medal in the fourth/fifth-year and heritage group this spring at the Midwest Universities Chinese Speech Contest.
He had never studied Chinese—or any other foreign language—when he received a grant to travel to China for a semester during his first year at UW–Madison. After returning to campus, he decided to major in Chinese, and received his bachelor’s degree in May 2014.
After just two-and-a-half years of study, Dowling’s Chinese speaking and listening skills had reached an advanced level. Then, last summer, he gave his language learning a further boost by returning to China for the 11-week UW Intensive Chinese Language Program at Tianjin, offered through International Academic Programs (IAP).
The Brazilian and Canadian contestants who finished ahead of Dowling had previous experience with the Chinese Bridge, notes Hongming Zhang, coordinator of the Chinese Language Program in UW–Madison’s Department of East Asian Languages and Literature.
“Brendan had the least experience for such high-level competition, because this time last year, he was still taking the third-year Chinese in Tianjin Summer Program,” says Zhang, who directs the UW summer program. “We are feeling very proud of Brendan for the great achievement that he has made in this year’s Chinese Bridge, as well as the incredibly great progress that he had made in his Chinese language study within a year.”
As the top contestant from the United States, Dowling has won a full scholarship plus international transportation to study in China for a year.
UW team excels at Chinese Speech Contest
Zhang also reports that the UW–Madison team – consisting of students in this year’s UW Intensive Chinese Language Program at Tianjin – emerged as the outstanding team at the 2014 Chinese Speech Contest of U.S. Summer Programs in China. Six of the eight participating UW–Madison students earned medals in three of the competition’s five categories.
This year’s competition involved 86 participants from summer programs in Beijing and Tianjin sponsored by North American institutions, including Harvard University, Columbia University, Princeton University, and the University of Chicago. The contest, held August 3, was hosted by Princeton’s Beijing Summer Program at Beijing Normal University.
“We are extremely proud of our students, who defeated contestants from the Ivy League schools and other public universities again,” Zhang says.
The UW–Madison students who earned medals were:
- Benjamin Adams, of Barrington, IL (1st, non-heritage intermediate level)
- Matthew McGee, of Chesapeake, VA (2nd, group A, non-heritage beginner level)
- Alison Sharpless, of Elm Grove, WI (2nd, group A, non-heritage beginner level)
- Soobin Im, of Seoul, South Korea (2nd, group B, non-heritage beginner level)
- Samuel Rosiejka, of Hudson, WI (3rd, group A, non-heritage beginner level)
- Seth Valenziano, of Madison, WI (3rd, group B, non-heritage beginner level).
Zhang says that most of the remaining medals went to students from Princeton and Harvard.
“The success in this event reflects the high teaching standard and overall strength of our summer program,” says Zhang, who credits the students, teachers, and program assistants of the Tianjin program. “Our local instructors and TAs devoted huge amounts of time and resources to work with our students. We also selected outstanding tutors among graduate students of Nankai University and Tianjin Normal University to strengthen the after-class training portion of the program.”
The competition was sponsored by the prestigious Commercial Press, which will publish the scripts of Benjamin Adams and other first-place winners in its magazine, The World of Chinese.
— by Kerry G. Hill