High School English Competition in Taipei

This Friday, I went to an english competition with four students from my school and two teachers. The students were second-year of high school-ers (高二) or Juniors in America. Two were in for an essay contest, two were in for a speech contest.

The speech contest consisted of a two minute prepared speech, followed by a picture-prompted speech five minutes after your first one, giving you only five minutes to craft a short speech from the picture you were given.

I wasn’t allowed to watch the speeches because only teachers were allowed, but a teacher had already planned on taking me on a campus tour of a nearby catholic university.

We got back in time for the awards ceremony, which was very bizarre for these reasons:

1). The style of teaching in Taiwan is very scolding-based. In class, especially with our homeroom teacher, we are constantly being told what we’ve done wrong (as a class; a teacher will rarely single out a single student in front of a whole class unless the student acts up during the scolding).

There were four judges, and they had embraced this style of teaching. And since they all spoke really good english, I began feeling slightly angry. It felt wrong to be scolded in the Asian style in English. It was like I was back in America, listening to judges at a competition give the usual congratulatory speech and suddenly be talked down to like an idiot.

I hadn’t competed, and I knew the competitors who had just finished were used to getting chewed-out, but it felt wrong to be scolded like this in English, because I’d never heard something like this before.

2). Each judge said something along the lines of: “Please be strong and continue studying English after this bad experience.”

One of the judges actually called this a “bad experience”. They gave a lot of tips on what to do if you get stuck in the middle of a speech.

So even though I hadn’t listened to the speeches, I could tell that it did not go well for the majority of the contestants. But I can believe it, judging from the English level of the Taiwanese students here and how shy they become when they speak English.

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Giving out the awards was awkward because everyone had been scolded beforehand. The girl who won first place began crying, and I think it was the first time I had seen someone cry while getting an award, in real life, not on TV.

 

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