Michele Jacopo Maggi, a third-year BSc Economics student, won Most Creative Performance Prize at the 2021 'Chinese Bridge' Chinese Proficiency Competition UK Regional Final on 26 June 2021. With 20 years of history, the Chinese Bridge Competition allows countless students to improve their language skills while simultaneously increasing their cultural awareness and understanding of China.
Michele spoke to the Department of Economics about his experience.
Tell us more about the competition.
The competition really came as a surprise. My teacher and tutor Hongyi Xin contacted me during the exam period about the possibility of participating in the 2021 Chinese Bridge Competition, and I immediately decided to embark on this journey. Preparation mainly consisted of 1-2-1 lessons with my tutor, followed by my own private study. The competition consisted of five sections, mostly centred around speaking abilities. There was a three-minute presentation about “One World, One Family”, six questions about Chinese culture, history, and language, an open-ended question requiring a one-minute answer, a one-minute video production introducing the contestant and their Mandarin learning experience, and lastly a talent show where I performed card magic.
How did you discover that you had won the Most Creative Performance Prize and what was your reaction?
Prizes were released live, right after the competition ended. Honestly, I never worked so hard for something. Even though I only had 25 days of preparation, even though I only studied for only one year, my efforts were still recognised. The hardest aspect of the competition was taking into consideration all aspects and characteristics of Mandarin, such as pronunciation, tones, right pausing, fluency, grammar, wide vocabulary, sophisticated structure including fixed expressions, classic Chinese idioms, and combine them in a creative and interesting way. Facing such strong competition, managing to gain an award definitely came as a pleasant surprise.
What does winning the Prize mean to you?
It’s a milestone. Throughout my studies I never had the opportunity to confront my abilities with my peers. Winning the Prize means that I am investing my time efficiently and profitably, that my effort is not wasted. Thus what the prize means to me is motivation. It gave me additional motivation to continue furthering my studies in what I now consider one of my greatest passions.
How long have you been studying Chinese? What motivated you to study the language?
It has been a combination of many different factors. I have watched Chinese, Japanese and Korean cartoons and comics since I was young. Once I arrived at LSE, most of my friends ended up being Asians and I thus began to understand and appreciate their culture. The boredom of quarantine gave me the last push I needed to embark on this journey. What motivated me to continue my studies is feeling myself improve day by day. Stumbling upon a word I studied a couple of days before, and being able to understand something that I was unable to the day before, brings a sense of achievement that can hardly be substituted.
What was studying LN142 Mandarin Language and Society 2 (Intermediate) like? Do you have any highlights?
I had not taken a language class that wasn’t mandatory before and LN142 set a high bar. The passion of every teacher made the classes both informative and enjoyable. Being connected through WhatsApp, not only with classmates but also with teachers, made the learning experience so much more effective, especially in a year characterised by online lessons. What really surprised me was the availability of the teachers. No matter if it was morning or night, the occasions in which I had to wait more than half an hour for a reply can be counted on one hand.
Any advice for people thinking about learning another language while studying at LSE?
I would wholeheartedly recommend anyone to start learning a foreign language at LSE, both as an outside option or an optional course. The progress one can make in one single year is unbelievable. Studying outside of classes, although true for all subjects, is particularly valid with languages. Hence, my advice is to literally take any opportunity as a learning one. This obviously includes listening to music, watching movies, and reading books in the target language, but can be easily extended to finding new friends to chat and practice, both online and in-person, learning how to cook traditional food and so on. The more the foreign language becomes an intrinsic part of your life, the easier and faster learning it becomes.
Do you have plans to visit China after the pandemic? If so, what would you do first?
Yes, as soon as I have a chance I would love to go and spend some time in China, Hong Kong, or even Taiwan. Having studied the language and the culture to such an extent and then not go and experience it first-hand feels like a missed opportunity. Travelling around China, possibly studying or working there are all opportunities that I wouldn’t hesitate to grasp.
(1) The picture where I am wearing a western-style suit was the three-minute presentation about "One World, One Family".
(2) The picture which includes that woman (who was one of the judges) is when I was asked the question on Chinese food requiring a one-minute answer.
(3) Lastly, the remaining two pictures are taken from the talent show where I performed a magic trick of my invention. During the trick, I talked about how I came to learn the language step by step. I thus talked about the four stages (Listening 听, Reading 读, Writing 写, Speaking 说 from left to right). The remaining Chinese characters were used as a symbol of my progresses in the language. The cards were previously white and then I made Chinese Characters appear.