Students Win Big in Chinese Language
Two University of St. Thomas students enrolled in Chinese language courses in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages competed in the 20th Annual Chinese Speech Contest, sponsored by the Global Federation of Chinese Business Women in the Southern USA, on April 20. Janelly Palacios received first place and Juana Martinez received third.
Palacios and Martinez competed in the adult, college-level, non-native speaker category and performed with distinction under the guidance of Dr. Sarah Tsai, Chinese language professor.
"I'm very lucky to have Janelly and Juana in my class,” Tsai said. “It's very rewarding to have such motivated and hardworking students. Chinese is becoming a popular language, and UST has been offering Chinese for seven years. We welcome any interested students to join us to learn the language and culture."
The theme of this year’s competition, “My favorite …,” allowed students to engage in oral and written contests to display their Mandarin fluency. Palacios described her interest in the Asian culture and how she studied Japanese previously. Although she thought Chinese was intimidating at first, she found the beauty of the language, its art and literature. Palacios, as first place winner, was interviewed by the local Chinese media.
“The speech contest was a great opportunity,” Palacios said. “I practiced out loud every day, making every effort to use the correct tones. I also wrote the pinyin over and over to ensure that I knew the tones. Pronunciation and time was very important so it took constant practice to use correct pronunciation while speaking sentences fluidly. Dr. Tsai coached us hard, and I’m glad she did because on the day of the speech contest we were well prepared, which lessened the nerves.”
Martinez said she enjoys learning Chinese because it is so different from both English and Spanish.
“I grew up in a small town in Mexico, where the only access I had to the outside world was what I learned at school or in movies,” Martinez said. “I became fascinated with Chinese culture and language. When I moved to Houston, I began researching more about Chinese but unfortunately, I was not able to study Chinese until high school. Although it is challenging, I enjoy the tones because it makes the language sound musical. Preparing for the speech contest was difficult because of the tone marks but after a lot of repetition and coaching from Ms. Tsai, it did not seem so complicated.”
Also, last March, students took the Chinese proficiency test for the Test Of Chinese as a Foreign Language certificate. The final rating will be announced in May.
Pictured: Janelly Palacios (left) and Juana Martinez (right) prepare for the 20th Annual Chinese Speech Contest.