skip navigation

Western New York Students Receive Awards at Chinese Language Competition in Boston

Three students from the Buffalo area received awards at the annual Chinese Bridge Speech Contest in Boston, MA, on Saturday, April 22. The awardees are Russell Guilbault, a sophomore at the University at Buffalo; Oliver Derrah, a senior at Orchard Park High School; and Grant Smith, a freshman at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute.

The students were invited to Boston based on the results of a preliminary competition in February. In that first round, students were asked to send sample recordings of their spoken Chinese for initial judging.

In Boston, separate competitions were organized for university and high school students. Participants were required to give a speech about themselves or some aspect of Chinese culture and answer questions from judges. They were also invited to give an optional cultural presentation, which could include singing, dancing, martial arts, poetry recitation, or Chinese opera.

Based on his performance in the three components of the competition, University at Buffalo Sophomore Russell Guilbault was one of five university students selected as a “Cultural Ambassador” to travel to China in June. The delegation traveled to Beijing and met with officials from Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters, Renmin University, and Hainan Airlines.

Guilbault, a native of Rochester, studied Chinese for a year before coming to UB. In his speech at the competition, he spoke on the topic of the “virtue of water” in the Dao De Jing. For his cultural performance, Guilbault recited a famous modernist poem by Hai Zi entitled “Spring Warms Flowers Open.

Gulbault says, “I am very grateful to Hainan Airlines and Hanban for the opportunity to travel to China for the first time and meet such passionate fellow students. This trip has given me great motivation to continue my Chinese language education.”

Oliver Derrah takes time out from tutoring students in English while on his Chinese Bridge “Cultural Ambassador” tour to China.

Local high school students also competed successfully in the Boston competition. Orchard Park senior Oliver Derrah has been studying Chinese for three years. He first started learning Chinese as a tutoring student at the Confucius Institute. More recently, Derrah has been studying with Yanfang Xu, a Confucius Institute guest teacher assigned to the Orchard Park School District.

Derrah also received an all-expenses-paid trip to China based on his second-place finish. His delegation of high school students traveled to Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Beijing.

In his speech, he talked about his experience learning Chinese with Confucius Institute tutor Guo Wen and his previous travels in China. For the performance, Derrah sang “Chinese Kung-fu” (中国功夫) while performing various martial arts styles.

Derrah says, “The contest was a great way for me to show my progress in learning Mandarin, and to learn even more about the Chinese language and culture from the other contestants. I’m thrilled to have been chosen as a high school Cultural Ambassador and am very excited to travel to China again.”

Grant Smith, a freshman at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in Kenmore, NY, finished in third place in the level one competition. Smith, a native of Amherst, NY, has only been studying Chinese since September 2016, yet competed successfully against a field of students who were already in their second year of Chinese language study.