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21英语教师网 > 新闻资讯 > 社会热点 > 正文
From the judges’ point of view: A personal reflection on the 21st Century Cup
作者:21ST    来源:21st    日期: 2019-04-04
In this revealing article, Question Master David Quartermain reveals how to respond in the Q&A section, and how the judges’ decisions are made.
 
The 24th China Daily ‘21st Century Cup’ National English Speaking Competition was about to commence, and once again I had the best seat in the house. The ‘house’ is this case was the magnificent Hangzhou International Expo Center in the magnificent city of HangZhou. That this very venue had played host to the 2016 G20 summit of world leaders was testimony to both the splendour of HangZhou as a city, and the prestige attached to this, the greatest of English Speaking competitions.

The reason that I was blessed with the best seat was that once again I was honoured to be one of the Question Masters for the semi-final of the College and Youth categories. Over the next 2 days, I would watch as 81 of China’s brightest young talents took to the stage to talk about China’s reform and opening-up from their own, unique, personal perspective. My role allowed me the opportunity to sit back and listen in barely disguised awe as these young people spoke so eloquently in a language that was not their own. For me, the hard work had been done in the days before the competition, when China Daily had sent me the impromptu topics that provided the content for the second part of each contestant’s time on stage. My role was to write a follow-up question for each of these topics, so that I could further test each contestant’s language skills and ability to think on their feet. The problem though is that, unlike the questions for the prepared speech, I do not know in advance what each contestant will say. The impromptu question will therefore be linked thematically to allow a contestant to discuss a wider issue related to the impromptu topic.

Typically, the questions take the following form:

1.This is an event / a problem / what some people think 

2.What is your opinion?

So how should contestants respond to such questions? One possible way is to build your response almost like a mini-essay, with an introduction, main body, and conclusion. In a speech, your response would then look like this:

1.Introduction: Comment on the question.

2.Main Body: Refer to any personal experience

3.Balance this by referring to the other side of the argument

4.Conclusion: Comment on how to lessen the problem. Maybe finish with an amusing or memorable comment.

At other times, I will use a quotation from a famous person, in which case the question invariably takes the form of what did you person mean, and do you agree with him/her? 

When faced with such a question, contestants should start by providing a personal reaction to the quotation (do you find it amusing, poignant, depressing, etc?). Then interpret it, and try to give some examples to support your interpretation (e.g., Whenever we ask a question we must always be ready for the answer, even if that answer is not to our liking). Finally, give your personal conclusion.

Students often find the Q&A section the most challenging part of the competition. They don’t know what the Question Master will ask, they may be unfamiliar with his/her accent, and they may have difficulty in understanding the question fully. If this is the case, I would recommend that students first start with whichever part of the question is most familiar to them, then try to personalise it, before finally addressing the central issue in the question. Let’s take a look at a follow-up question from a topic about ‘running at full speed towards the realisation of our dreams’ to see how such a strategy would work:

“We live in a world of fast cars, fast food, fast internet and, for some, fast profits. But are there any situations where ‘slow’ is the best way forward?”

Focus on the familiar: e.g., Here in China, it is certainly true that many people drive fast cars, there are an increasing number of fast-food chains such as McDonald’s, and we are addicted to instant messaging services such as WeChat. 

Try to personalise it: e.g., in my own life as a university student, I rely on the internet to conduct research, do online shopping and keep in touch with friends across China, and go to fast-food restaurants because they are cheap and convenient.

Address the key issue: e.g., is it always advantageous to be fast? Sometimes it’s not. In building a long-lasting relationship, we should take our time. This is also true when planning our careers or deciding on a course of action such as getting married. Maybe relate this to the tale of the tortoise and the hare, to show that ‘fast’ isn’t always ‘better’.

In constructing your answer, remember that it is often more memorable if you can add a personal story to illustrate a wider point, particularly if that story is humorous. For example, in response to the question above I would recount the tale of how I once raced to the airport to meet my friend. I was desperate not to be late, but it was only when I got to the airport that I realised I hadn’t taken the time to read my friend’s email properly, and he was in fact arriving at the railway station!

As a judge, I am often asked how scores are awarded and how we reach our decision as to who will be the eventual winner. In fact, as a Question Master I play no part in the scoring and can simply enjoy the speeches without worrying about exactly how to grade them. For the other judges however, marks are awarded based on Speech Content (what the contestant say, including organisation and coherence), the Language Quality (how they say it, in terms of accuracy and range of vocabulary), and the Overall Impression (what they do while they say it, including body language and facial expression). 

One of the key issues for contestants to remember is that the 21st Century contest is both a speaking AND a public speaking competition. In other words, it is not sufficient to simply be a highly proficient speaker of the language; contestants must also know how to craft a well-structured speech that conforms to the requirements and conventions of public speaking in terms of formality, structure, and purpose. 
 
Contestants and tutors should also remember that, in the College category, only 30% of the marks are awarded for the Prepared Speech. Typically, tutors allocate around 80% of their preparation time to this section, but in fact it is usually the Impromptu and Q&A sections that determine who progresses to the final. To prepare for these parts of the contest, there is no better source of inspiration than China Daily and 21st Century newspapers. Almost all of the Impromptu Topics will be drawn from news stories over the past 12 months, particularly if they include a social or university campus aspect. 
 
So, for example, in 2019 impromptu topics included questions on the TV show ‘All is well’ (都挺好), the Starbucks limited edition ‘cat paw’ mug (猫爪杯), and the rise of kuakua groups on WeChat. To prepare for the 2020 competition, there is no better place to start than subscribing to China Daily and 21st Century newspapers. 

Overall, the judges were hugely impressed with the performance of all those who took to the stage in HangZhou. Each had tackled the central topic in a unique way, offering both poignant and profound insights as to how the recent changes in China had affected them and their communities. Through the China Daily ‘21st Century Cup’ National English Speaking Competition, young people were able to demonstrate both the language skills and a depth of analysis that were truly inspiring. The judges listened, we liked what we heard, and through this competition, students were able to able to let the world hear their voice. I look forward to returning again next year and hope that, once again, I will have the best seat in the house for this remarkable event.

David Quartermain is a senior lecturer at the University of Burgundy and has been a judge or coach for over 10 years at national public speaking competitions. He has also lectured extensively on public speaking and presentation skills, both in China and across South-East Asia. He can be contacted at quartermaindavid@gmail.com.



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