KPU students shine at Chinese Proficiency Competition

Mon, Jun 17, 2024

Two KPU students took home awards from the 23rd Chinese Bridge Mandarin proficiency competition for B.C. university students, held at VIFF Centre in Vancouver.

Mandarin 1100 student Yohani Weheragama won third place in the singing category and Mandarin 1101 student Harley Sadlier won third place in the speech category.

Dr. Yanfeng Qu, Language and Cultures Department Chair and Mandarin instructor at KPU, has been teaching and coordinating KPU's Mandarin Chinese programs since 1996. He has also been helping students participate in the contests as a key component of his teaching.

“I would like those students who enter my classroom to have an intellectually inspiring, culturally enriching and socially engaging experience,” says Qu. “Nothing is more rewarding and fulfilling than seeing my students fall in love with this challenging but charming language, win prizes and bursaries in the annual Mandarin speech and singing contests, and apply their newly acquired linguistic skills to their career and life.”

Dr. Yanfeng Qu, Yohani Weheragama, and Harley Sadlier.
From left to right, Dr. Yanfeng Qu, Yohani Weheragama, and Harley Sadlier.

KPU students have been participating in the Mandarin speech contest since 2003, and in the Mandarin singing contest since 2011. This year was the first time the two contests were combined into a single event, held on April 20. A total of 100 contestants from post-secondary institutions across the province competed, including four students from KPU.

Qu believes that participating in events like this provides opportunities for students to take their classroom learning to the next level, and to immerse themselves in Chinese culture.

“Students apply what they have learned in the classroom for writing their script, but delivering a speech in Mandarin to a large audience is an entirely different ballgame — especially for a beginner,” explains Qu. “The extra tutoring from me, be it script editing or oral practice, affords the participants more relevant and hands-on learning beyond the classroom.”

Students coming to Qu for some extra help are in good hands. He has been a member of the Canadian Teaching Chinese as a Second Language Association since 2005 and is currently serving his second term as the association’s Vice-President, General Affairs.

The Mandarin speech contest was launched in 2003 because the association wanted to create a new learning opportunity that spanned post-secondary institutions across the province. The singing contest was launched in 2009, and Qu has been a major proponent of the events ever since.

“I have been actively involved in the contests either as one of the organizers, or adjudicators and have been actively engaging my Mandarin learning students in the events as well,” says Qu. “I am very proud to say that about 30 KPU students have won prizes in various categories over the last 21 years.”

The singing contest, in particular, provides a unique opportunity for students to be immersed in Chinese culture and art. Through learning and understanding lyrics, students come to understand a variety of cultural, linguistic, psychological and social perspectives that are inherent to the songs themselves.

“Singing in a new language opens the door to a new cultural horizon,” says Qu. “Language is culture, and culture is language.”