So, what was the show? (汉语大会)

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I posted some pictures while I was in China, but I had a few people asking if I could say a bit more about the competition and what it was all about, and perhaps post some video. I’m #6 in the picture here–it’s a screenshot taken from the video below. The clip is only about a minute long, but it nicely sums up the different parts of the show without boring you:).  In another part of the video, you can see me looking at the host in surprised disbelief, and in another I’m playing my guitar.

To back up a bit, as I understand things, the show (汉语大会) is a cooperation between Chinese Central Television (CCTV4) and another branch of the Chinese government called Hanban.  Hanban is the parent organization of the Confucius Institutes that you see all around the world. Their mission largely focuses on the goal of promoting Chinese culture and language learning; some people call this kind of thing “soft diplomacy”.  In this respect, Hanban’s activities are quite similar to the efforts of other governments around the world (think of Spain’s Cervantes Institute, the German Goethe Institute, the French Alliance Française or The British Council).

With that background, my thinking is that the “star” of the show was the Chinese language.  The principle aim was to celebrate Chinese language learning, show Chinese people that foreigners are indeed trying to learn Mandarin, and perhaps to encourage learners of Mandarin to continue with their studies.

I was one of 72 participants from around the world, and I was part of the “Americas” team with four Americans and a Brazilian.  There were also teams (six people per group) from Africa, Oceana, Europe, Asia, as well as domestic teams from inside China– these teams comprised international students studying at Chinese universities.   Most of the participants were much younger than me, but I actually wasn’t the oldest!

The show basically consisted of three parts: the 6 of us planning/rehearsing/performing a skit to show our understanding of a Chinese idiom; next, the six of us were together as a team in a kind of quiz show to test our knowledge of specific topics in Chinese language and culture; finally, each of us did an individual performance (i.e guitar, singing, martial arts, comedic monologue/tongue twisters).

At the end of the day, I think we did a good job; however, it just wasn’t enough to make it into the semi-finals.  All things considered, it was an amazing experience.  Some of the contestants have truly achieved a level of Chinese fluency and on-camera comfort that is really admirable . I came away from the experience feeling quite inspired to keep going with my studies.

I definitely have to close with a word of renewed thanks to the folks at my local Confucius Institute.  I’m grateful for all the work they do, as well as their continued support and encouragement of all the Chinese learners here in Edmonton!

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