Author: Lee Hsin-Yin
Taipei, Nov. 24 (CNA) A language program student from the United Kingdom on Tuesday won the top prize in a Mandarin speaking contest organized by Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei, where he expressed his thoughts on Syrian refugees in the hope of raising public awareness about the issue.
In the annual contest, where foreign students describe their experiences in Taiwan or share other personal viewpoints in Mandarin Chinese, Staś Butler shared with the audience his experience working with an NGO in Greece to help Syrian refugees.
“I guess it’s quite close to my heart,” said the 24-year-old when asked why he chose the topic. He received the first prize of NT$20,000 (US$695).
Having learned Chinese for just a year, the student from National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center said he is interested in different languages and cultures and expects to start a new job in Taiwan next year.
A total of 55 contestants from 12 countries took part in the competition — including from Vietnam, Japan, Pakistan and the United States.
Also showing great energy and Chinese proficiency was Vincent Fernando from the U.S., who finished fourth.
The 40-year-old, who attends the same language program and runs a business in Taiwan, impressed the audience with his life experience and unique perspective.
He said in the speech that he wondered why Taiwanese who he encountered often tried to speak English with him instead of speaking in Mandarin.
“People should be more proud of their origins,” Fernando said, citing ancient Chinese wisdom shown in every day life such as chopsticks.
Meanwhile, contestant Milo Chen from Indonesia said he had a great time giving his speech, adding that he hopes learning Chinese will help him become a better tour guide in Bali.
The 7-hour contest at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, now in its 48th year, has become an annual celebration of diverse cultures, while also promoting Chinese-language learning and Taiwanese culture.