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James Lutz

James Lutz wins international Chinese competition

Upper Canada College IB1 student James Lutz has won the Chinese Bridge – Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign Secondary School Students with partner Shawna Truong from Edmonton’s McNally High School.

Lutz won first place overall in the Canadian Chinese Proficiency Competition for High School Students in April to qualify for the recent Mandarin Chinese competition in Kunming, China. The Chinese government paid for airfare, food and housing for all 124 competitors from around the world, as well as their teachers and observer students.

The competition was broken up first into two main areas: individual and team. The individual score was based on a cultural multiple choice test, a personal speech and a talent prepared by each competitor. The test accounted for 40 per cent of the score while the speech and talent accounted for 60 per cent. Lutz received 87 points out of 100, while his partner — who he met just a few days earlier — received 89.8.

“My speech had to be focused on the competition, known as Chinese Bridge,” says Lutz. “My talent was a rap-like speech that focused on different Chinese dialects.”

The team score was based on the two individual scores as well as results from a variety of games and a flower arrangement. Competitors were asked to jump rope, memorize ancient writing and language and race against other teams, among other events. The students then had to buy flowers of their choice and then arrange them to exemplify one of three themes: youth, friendship and hope. Once the flowers were arranged, competitors gave a brief explanation of their work to the judges.

The breakdown of the team score was: 20 per cent for average individual scores (88.4); 40 per cent for games (99); and 40 per cent for flower arrangement (91.8). This gave Lutz’s team a final score of 94 and first place in the competition.

Lutz’s team placed second to a Russian duo in an online voting contest.

The results netted Lutz the title of “Chinese Language Ambassador” and a scholarship from the Confucius Institute for three-and-a-half years of tuition at a variety of Chinese universities.

“My Mandarin is not proficient enough to allow me to learn college-level material at the same pace as everyone else,” says Lutz. “If anything, I think that I will use either a term or a year to study abroad, most likely in Beijing.”

Lutz took Chinese classes for three years at his previous school before enrolling at UCC last year and taking teacher Jane Li’s Mandarin class, which he says was more rigorous and taught him a great deal. Li’s valuable assistance helped prepare him for the competition, while the experiences he gained from it will last a lifetime.

“This competition allowed me to learn so much about other people’s cultures,” says Lutz. “There were over 50 countries represented there, and each one had their own personalities to them.

“I was also able to learn much more about Chinese culture, visiting schools and families in Kunming, as well as the main tourist spots in Beijing. I experienced the food, people and art of China firsthand, which is not very common for an American at my age.”

You can see photos from the competition here.