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Team of Massachusetts High School Students Takes The Silver In China: Places Second In International "Chinese Bridge" Chinese Language And Culture Contest

UMassMassachusetts's Alexander, Dunn and Spence Impress Judges in China

BOSTON-Massachusetts high school students Robert Alexander, William (Colby) Dunn, and Michael Spence placed second in the world, among teams representing 24 countries from across the globe, in the first annual "Chinese Bridge" World High School Student Chinese Contest-a challenge requiring students to demonstrate their Chinese language and culture skills- held in Jinan City (Shandong province) in China.

Progressing through early rounds of the contest to the semi-finals and then to the final round of international competition, the Bay State team took second prize-Singapore came in first-by demonstrating superior skills in speaking, writing and performing in Chinese. The strong performance earned Dunn, Alexander and Spence trophies and six or 12 month scholarships (including travel and accommodations) to study in China, awarded by the Hanban, the office of the Chinese Language Council International.

The Massachusetts team was sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Confucius Institute and also supported by the Chinese Consulate in New York. All three students attend Belmont Hill School and have studied Mandarin Chinese for a combined total of eight years. They prepared for the global contest with the help of Jian Gao, a teacher at Belmont Hill School.

"We were honored to represent Massachusetts in the contest. Traveling to China was an incredible experience for the students and their chaperones-I am very proud of their strong performance and strong finish in the competition. The support of the University of Massachusetts opened doors for us and we could not have achieved this success without it," said Gao.

Alexander resides in Winchester; Dunn resides in Weston and Spence is from Randolph.

"As the world becomes increasingly interdependent, developing foreign language skills and an understanding of other cultures is critically important for students today. The Chinese Bridge contest exposes students to language, cultures, people and contemporary issues from an important nation- I commend these students for their notable achievement," said University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson

For the past two years, the UMass Confucius Institute has hosted the national "Chinese Bridge" Speech Contest; the University's Institute, launched in 2006, is one of about 30 institutes of its kind in the United States established by Hanban.

"We are very proud to have helped these Massachusetts students participate in the international 'Chinese Bridge' contest and congratulate the Massachusetts team for finishing among the top three teams in the world," said Dr. Marcellette G. Williams, Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs and International Relations at UMass and Chair of the Board of the UMass Confucius Institute. "Our Confucius Institute offers a wide array of programs and services to individuals interested in studying Chinese language and culture-from hosting Chinese language and cultural events, to important work on Chinese curriculum development for community programs."

The contest, for high school students between the ages of 15 and 20, was modeled after similar contests at the college level and required the students to compete against teams from around the world in speaking, writing and performing in Mandarin Chinese. A U.S. national competition has been held for three years, but this was the first year for an international "Chinese Bridge" competition held in China. The Massachusetts team was one of two teams representing the United States, but was the only U.S. team to progress to the semi-finals or finals. The 29 teams that competed this year represented countries in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia; the high school students traveled to China for the July 14-30 contest.

By some estimates, last year, approximately 60,000 American students were studying Chinese in the U.S., while in China, 11 million students are studying English. Massachusetts often ranks among the top two states in the United States, along with California, for the number of high school students who study Chinese.

Photo Caption:
In this photo, Massachusetts high school students Robert Alexander, Michael Spence and Colby Dunn (left to right) compete for the United States in the 'Chinese Bridge' international Chinese language and culture contest held in Jinan City, China, last week, winning second place among teams of high school students representing 24 countries across the globe.
(Digital photo .jpeg available upon request).

Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073

Libby DeVecchi, 617-287-7023