NDA Mandarin Students Top Winners at Wisconsin Chinese Speech Contest


Clare Ravizza, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Several NDA students recently competed in the Thirteenth Annual Wisconsin Association of Chinese Languages Speech and Pronunciation Contest.

“It’s an annual event held at UW-Milwaukee where students all over Wisconsin studying Mandarin, from elementary to university, are allowed to participate,” said NDA junior Diego Mendoza, who earned first place in the high school division of non-native Mandarin speakers.

The contest is open to students who are native Mandarin speakers, as well as to beginners. Each student prepares and memorizes his own speech, which is performed to a group of judges.

“It’s intimidating and mentally exhausting,” said Mendoza of the contest, “but also a great time to hang out with friends and get to know some really neat people.”

Other winners were Mary Zakowski, second place; Ariana DelMoral, third place; and Alexa Algas, Amolia Schneider and Sam Frantz, honorable mention.

NDA students began preparing early for the competition in order to put their best foot forward.

“First, students learned the content and rhymes in class, so they were able to write their own piece for the speech contest,” said NDA Mandarin teacher, Mrs. Zhang. “Then I helped students to focus on different topics to present, such as talking about family, friends, Chinese pen pals, travel experience, future plans or fun stories in their life. Our students all had their unique story to tell.”

After students had selected a story, Zhang worked individually with each student to help with their pronunciation during expression. Students and Zhang gave up their lunch time or study hall, in addition to time outside of school, to rehearse.

“Mrs. Zhang really helped me these last few weeks.  I spent a few of my study halls up in her room as she nitpicked my pronunciation. At home, I would spend an hour doing homework and then 30 minutes just reciting paragraphs one by one until they would become fairly natural to me,” explained Mendoza.

Zhang also organized two group rehearsal sessions before the contest so the student participants could practice in front of a group.

It was a long, difficult process, but it paid off with how well the NDA students performed at UW Milwaukee.


“The students I competed against were all great people and all so advanced with their Mandarin that I had already told myself there was very little chance I could win first place, and so it was a really nice surprise to be told I had won,” said Mendoza.

Many students began taking Mandarin once the program began at NDA, but some students, like Mendoza, have been studying the language for years.

The junior began studying Mandarin in the fourth grade when he “was offered the choice at school to either learn Chinese or Spanish.

“I was born in Mexico and grew up speaking Spanish at home so I really just wanted to try something new.”

Mendoza has continued to study while at NDA.

“My dream is to become a diplomat  and I know in order to become a successful one, I need to understand where other cultures’ worldview originate from,” explained Mendoza. “Knowing Chinese is just another step closer to becoming more interconnected with this multicultural, global society.”

“I am glad that students have the enthusiasm to participate in the Chinese speech contest. It shows that they are confident and enjoy what they are learning,” said Zhang. “Not only do students compete, but they also perform and demonstrate Chinese culture in the event. And they represent NDA! I am proud of them.”