Wisconsin Team Wins big at the 2019 Midwest University Chinese Speech Contest

Photo of Wisconsin students at 2019 Midwest Speech Contest

–Written by Prof. Hongming Zhang

We just came back from Chicago with this great news for you: at the 2019 Midwest College Chinese Speech Contest, held April 27 at Loyola University Chicago, our team once again was the biggest winner of the event.

This year, the organizing committee put out a new rule for this contest: each university can send no more than 6 contestants. Our team this year was made up of these six students: Tae Jun Um, Franklin Breu, Vivienne Wooldridge, Elizabeth Somsen, Mathew Van Gilder, and Alex Sington. There were altogether 16 universities in the Midwest and Great Lakes areas joined this event. The contestants from these 16 universities were divided into five groups based on their Chinese proficiency level/language background:

Group 1: 1st-year non-heritage students
Group 2: 2nd-year non-heritage students
Group 3: 3rd-year non-heritage students
Group 4: 4th-year and higher non-heritage students
Group 5: heritage students

Our students, all non-heritage students, competed in the first four groups and they all did very well in the competition of their respective groups and achieved outstanding results: Tae Jun Um won the gold medal in Group 1, Franklin Breu tied with another contestant from another university for the first place in Group 2, Vivienne Wooldridge and Elizabeth Somsen tied for the gold in Group 3, and Mathew Van Gilder and Alex Sington tied for the second place in Group 4.

Our team once again became the biggest and incomparable winner because it brought back home four of the total seven gold medals resulted in this competition, leaving only three behind to share among those contestants from all the other 15 universities, including the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Purdue University, University of Iowa, Loyola University Chicago, etc.

As one of the gold medal winners of 3rd-year non-heritage group, Vivienne Wooldridge will be the representative of the Midwest and Great Lakes areas to observe the Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students which will be held in China this summer.

It is worth mentioning that the competition in Group 4 was extremely intense this year. All contestants, except our students Mathew Van Gilder and Alex Sington, are currently taking 4th-year or even higher-level Chinese courses. This is the 1st time that we did not win the 1st place for Group 4 due to the fact that we have not had any 4th year or higher Chinese language courses opened/offered this year. However, we have tried our best by sending Mathew and Alex, both of whom are taking some elective Chinese courses and who tied the second place with their outstanding performances at Group 4 competition and beat other contestants who have higher Chinese proficiency level.

What we have achieved at the 2019 Midwest College Chinese Speech Contest once again proved the strength of our Chinese program in terms of quality teaching and training. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our instructors and TAs who spent time on coaching our students preparing for this contest. My special thanks go to my colleague Professor Weihua Zhu for her leadership as the head coach of our team, as well as Dr. Yujun Wang, the instructor financially sponsored by Hanban (China’s National Office Promoting Chinese Language & Culture). I want to express my gratitude to our TAs Jun Wang, Yanwen Wu, Yangtian Luo, Rui Wang, Ji Wang, and Yixuan Cai, who have kept our contestants company all the way to this contest so as to provide our students with on-site coaching and heart-warming encouragement. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our other TAs (Zheyu Su, Jie Zhang, Han Yan, and Wenting Ji) for their time spent on helping our contestants prepare for this event, and to thank Ms. Haiyan Wei who has lent us with enormous logistic support and beyond.


Hongming Zhang
Professor and head of Chinese Language & Linguistics Program