What was it like to compete in the Chinese Competition?

Author: Emily Leung-Kaplan  Editor: Julia Ruan

Emily comes from a Cantonese and English-speaking home. Her mom, Pam Leung was born in Guangdong, China and came to the United States at 6 years old.  Her dad, Marc Kaplan was born in Boston and does not speak Chinese.  Emily’s has Mandarin sessions once a week with her tutor Anna Ma.  Emily is currently enrolled in level 1 Mandarin at Overlake Middle School. Below is her experience at Washington State Chinese Competition.

My name is Emily Leung-Kaplan, I am 11-years-old and currently enrolled in the 6th grade at Overlake Middle School.  During the 2019 Washington State Chinese Competition, I competed in the public speaking category. The public speaking category is broken up into three district levels, Class A, the highest, is designated for native speakers, followed by Class B, and then Class C where first-time contestants are assigned.  Being my first time competing, I was placed in Class C.

Preparing for the competition was grueling, but all my hard work could not help dispel my fears that the competition would be intense once I had a chance to watch a few of the competitors perform.  They were good, really good!  Nevertheless, I resigned to stay focus and do my best, and not dwell on the competition.

It was only 10 feet from my theater seat to the stage, but the walk seemed like a mile.

The rules are simple, the contestants have 3 minutes to present a compelling story.  At the end of 2 minutes, the timekeeper holds up a flag and at 3 minutes, the timekeeper waves the flag signaling that time is up.   I honestly can’t remember a flag, it was all a blur.  What I do recall vividly was going back to my seat and noticing that the judges were far more talkative and animated than they had been with prior competitors.  And then, the hostess who had been huddled in the judges’ discussion, turn to me and told me that I would be moved up to B Class where I would present again.  I could not stop feeling overtaken by a looming sense of doom. The competition in B class would fiercer than the C class who were really good.

This time around, I was the last one to be called up to present. Questions raced through my mind “What if I mess up? What if I don’t bring home a trophy this year? What if I stumble?”  I walked up to the stage and began to deliver my speech, but this time with more enthusiasm, making sure to project every word and keeping eye contact with the judges.

Fast forwards 3 hours later, the Masters of Ceremonies are announcing the winners. All my friends and family doubted that I would win in class B, and so did I.  Although, I appeared stoic, deep down I felt sad that was I moved into B class, where the chances of me coming in the top three spots felt like a galaxy away.   I could not bear listening to all the winners named being called, I turned to ask my mother if we can leave, and just then I heard my name called from the MC on stage. “Emily Leung-Kaplan, first place for Public Speaking Class B”.  First place, I was in complete shock. my tutor,  Anna Ma, had tears in her eyes. She hugged me tightly and then I ran up to the stage as fast as my feet could carry me.

That day brought me so many invaluable lessons, the most important, the competition wasn’t all about winning, although it feels wonderful. The most important lessons were, I love for learning the Chinese language, my hard work paid off, I could not have done it without the help of my teachers, tutor, and parents.  Now I am looking forward to next year and competing in Class A.