The HSBC Mandarin Competition is an event organised for schools across Britain, set up by the Centre for Language Education and Cooperation UK Office. It aims to help non-fluent Mandarin speakers develop their knowledge of the language by delivering various speaking tasks in Mandarin. 

Last week, the first round of the HSBC Mandarin Speaking Competition was held online. The annual competition, which has transitioned to being held digitally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, gives students studying Mandarin the chance to put their speaking skills to the test. Categories range from beginner to advanced level, with contestants giving a 2-minute presentation in Mandarin, followed by questions from the judges. Contestants then need to translate 3 sentences from Mandarin into English, and must finally give a 1-minute unprepared speech on an unseen topic. The judging panel, made up of fluent Mandarin speakers from institutions across the UK, now face the decision on who should advance to the finals, being held from the 23rd to 25th May, in each category.

On Friday, I had the chance to take part in the competition. This was the third occasion on which I’d taken part, and this time I was placed in the advanced category. I remember my first experience of the competition at beginner level – now, there was a huge difference as I saw the high standard of Mandarin being delivered by the other students. Presentation topics ranged from Chinese festivals to traditional dishes, which serves as a reminder of another advantage which comes with entering the competition: it gives you an opportunity to broaden your knowledge on Chinese culture.

Although I was competing in the individual category, there is also a group category of the competition. In this case, students work together to record a short performance including dialogue in Mandarin, with extra focus being placed on using the language to convey a particular story or message.

Overall, taking part in the HSBC Mandarin Speaking Competition is always a positive experience thanks to how well the event is run. Hopefully I’ll be back on Zoom for the finals in a few weeks.