The Mandarin Immersion program at Orion has a rich tradition of participating in local Mandarin speech and poetry contests to help students practice their public speaking skills, express themselves creatively in Mandarin, and deepen their knowledge of Chinese culture.
More than 20% of our students participated in this year's CTLAC Mandarin Speech Contest. Each student wrote an essay on a topic of their choice, refined their speech in multiple drafts, and practiced their speech to fluency. We are so proud of our competitors, many of whom are not only non-native Mandarin speakers, but also speak other languages at home such as Spanish, Tongan, Turkish or French, while learning Mandarin in school. Public speaking is a valuable skill. Learning to speak with confidence in a foreign language is a very difficult challenge. All our student competitors succeeded in this difficult task. Check out some of our students' speeches below!
Saoirse is a 2nd grader who had a very difficult time learning Mandarin in kindergarten. Her teachers realized it was harder than usual. She was tested and it revealed borderline disabilities in memory and auditory comprehension. Saoirse was placed on an IEP to help remediate these skill areas. Her parents almost withdrew her from the program, but were encouraged by her first grade teacher to stay since the Mandarin Immersion environment would help the weak brain areas grow. Saoirse worked very hard and saw notable improvements. Before it took 100 or more repetitions of a phrase to learn it, it now takes her less than 20 times of practice. Even writing and learning this speech is a feat that would have been unthinkable a short few years ago. It shows that Mandarin Immersion can be an ideal environment to improve slight disabilities. Furthermore, the confidence of overcoming hardship and being resilient are valuable life skills.
Alexis speaks Spanish and English at home. Neither of her parents speak a word of Mandarin. She interviewed her parents about her grandparents as part of a homework assignment a few weeks before the speech contest was announced. Her speech highlights her multicultural background. She decided, on her own, that she wanted to use that for her speech. Her parents were surprised and grateful that she chose to talk about her grandparents. She wrote the first draft and then got help from one of the parent tutors to help her finalize it. Alexis has surprised her family tremendously with how she was able to make so much progress, especially during the pandemic. Her parents are incredibly grateful for the teachers and parent volunteers at the MI program. It takes a village, and they are so happy to have found the right village for their family.
Ezel is 2nd grader in the MI program. He has family members living in Turkey and Malaysia who do not speak any English. To prevent him from losing his roots and connections with his cultural heritage, Ezel's parents were determined to raise him to be fluent in both Mandarin and Turkish. He enjoys making friends, climbing trees, and music. In his speech, he shares the reasons why he loves learning piano.
Olivia is a 2nd grader in Mandarin Immersion. Her family does not speak Mandarin at home, but are so happy for her to embrace her Chinese cultural heritage through both academic and extracurricular experiences in the program. Learning in both Mandarin and English has given Olivia multiple perspectives on the same content, and her parents are amazed at how her Mandarin fluency has developed over the last three years. In Olivia's speech, she talks about how her hero Suni Lee inspired her love of gymnastics. Olivia has evolved from a quiet and shy kindergartener to a boisterous and confident 2nd grader. Her family is very grateful to be in a school community surrounded by other families who are now their closest friends.
Riley is a 1st grader in the MI program. She is growing up in a household where only English and Korean are spoken. Her parents have been amazed at how much she had learned at school. Riley dreams in Mandarin and she and her little brother who is in the kindergarten MI program sing together and crack jokes in Mandarin; presumably at their parents' expense! She was excited to be able to share this speech, which she wrote about a family vacation we took this past winter.
Emma is a 4th grader in the MI program. Her family doesn't speak Mandarin at home, but Emma has really embraced the language - speaking, reading and writing an entire essay in Mandarin! In this speech, Emma is describing each member of her family, how she helped her younger sister ride her bike, and how she's dealt with conflicts with her two younger sisters. At the end, she says that she is happiest when she is spending time with her family. Mandarin has deepened Emma's relationship with her grandparents (they share stories and jokes in Mandarin), and her appreciation of Chinese culture.