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Roark Corson as a toddler in China

Each year, the Jiangsu Cup Chinese Speech Contest brings together university students from Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia for the chance to demonstrate their Chinese language abilities and compete for prizes.  This year Roark Corson, CLAS ’22, took home a Silver Award and scholarship for his performance at the contest.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both of the competition’s two rounds were virtual.  For the first round, Corson submitted a 4-minute recorded speech introducing himself and explaining why he studies Chinese.  Long interested in Sino-American relations, Corson’s speech highlighted how understanding Chinese history is an important step towards uncovering the roots of the issues we face today.  After advancing to the final round of the competition, Corson knew he would have to dedicate serious time if he wanted to obtain an award.  The final round consisted of two speeches, one prepared and one extemporaneous.  For the prepared speech, Corson crafted a narrative about what he imagined a day in Nanjing, the capital of China’s Jiangsu province, might look like.  In his speech, Corson focused on the ways in which Nanjing blends modernity and history, referencing the 600-year-old Nanjing City Wall and the 15-year-old metro in the same breath.  While preparing his speech, he was also practicing for the extemporaneous speaking portion of the competition.  Contestants were given ten potential questions; on the day of the contest, each would be randomly assigned one of the ten.  To practice, he worked with his Chinese and Taiwanese friends, delivering each speech several times to fine-tune his ideas and delivery.  After many repetitions, Corson was ready to put his practice to use.

On the day of the competition, 16 contestants gathered on Zoom with friends and family looking on.  Three judges evaluated each speech based on language use, content, and delivery.  Corson performed well in both speeches, securing 5th place overall and earning a Silver Award.  With his Award comes a decision: to take an expense-free trip around Jiangsu province or receive a tuition scholarship at Nanjing University to study Chinese language for a semester.  Eager to further improve his Mandarin with a longer-term program, Corson is leaning towards the latter, but says his decision will in part rely on his post-grad plans.  A 2021-2022 Lawn resident, Corson will be unable to study abroad until after he graduates.  Regardless, he is thrilled to have been able to participate in the competition, noting that his Chinese has seen significant improvement due to the rigor of preparing for the contest. 

When asked about advice for other students studying Chinese, Corson recommends students consider spending time on the language outside the classroom.  A Shea House Chinese Floor resident, Corson has used virtual flashcards, news articles, YouTube videos, and language partners to improve his Chinese.  He feels that dedication is essential to fast improvement.  In the Fall, Corson will enroll in Media Chinese where he will continue to develop his skills.  We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors!