Sophomore Liam Schenk has been selected as one of 24 finalists to compete in the 12th Chinese Bridge Speech Contest for U.S. High School Students at the University of Massachusetts Boston on April 22. The highly competitive contest, sponsored by the Confucius Institute, is designed for non-heritage American students to showcase their success in learning Chinese language and culture and to encourage the participants to utilize their language skills to make contributions to increase mutual understanding between the peoples of the two countries. Liam will compete in the intermediate division, as he has studied Mandarin at MFS since seventh grade.
Liam heard about the competition from fellow MFS student Nick Tursi ’17 who competed twice.
“I really enjoy Chinese class, and I thought the speech competition would be a way for me to improve and practice the tones in my speaking,” said Liam. “Writing characters, listening, and grammar come more naturally to me, but tones in speaking is a struggle. I do a lot of extra work outside of school to practice speaking correctly, working with a tutor and trying to talk to other Chinese speakers. But for my speech for the contest, every night I practice for 30 minutes, repeating it as much as I can so I can memorize it by April but also work on my tones and how I’m saying the speech. I’ve been writing and practicing my speech since January, and I only wish I started earlier.”
The subject of his speech is the creation of an optimal trip traveling to Chinatown. He talks about going to a Lion Dance show and learning how to dance, the different things he ate at a restaurant, and more. Liam drew upon his visits to many Chinatowns around the world — Philadelphia, New York City, Toronto, San Francisco, and Lima, Peru.
In addition to his speech, Liam is also preparing a cultural performance of a jianzi routine with tricks. Jianzi is a traditional Chinese sport in which players keep a shuttlecock in the air by using their bodies, apart from their hands. The game is similar to the game of hacky sack.
“Teaching Liam is like setting up the rules for him and then watching him work hard to fill in the blanks little by little,” said Mrs. Chu. “He spends a lot of extra hours on Chinese outside of class, and he has a tough mind to meet his goals in his journey of Chinese study. As his teachers, we appreciate his efforts and are proud to assist him in his achievements.”
Aside from Chinese, Liam is also proficient in Spanish and German. He also is the Boys’ Tennis second singles player and is a member of the Boys’ Varsity Soccer team. He is working on a furniture design portfolio and is class president.