Sunday, July 29, 2007
Speak English Please
Beijing Television held an English contest that was taped in the basement of the Millennium Monument, a strange structure with a needle not upright, but on an angle like a radar gun.
The contest called "I am the Hero" was also loosely related to the Olympics, encouraging people to come out of the woodwork and speak English.
Anyway, it was sponsored by a company that produces software to learn English, but interestingly enough, none of their staff spoke the language.
The contest had been going for a few months a la American Idol style, eliminating people and now they were down to the final 12. They ranged in age from an 11-year-old girl to an elderly man, but he wasn't able to make it that night for some reason.
In the competition they had to translate and perform a skit that is quite well known in China. It's basically an interviewer asking a country bumpkin couple about their lives with both comical language and physical comedy.
It was quite strange to have them translate something, when they really should have created their own skits in English. These were then graded by three judges, one of whom was an actual English person. Six people were then eliminated.
The next round was to get each contestant to wear a funny headband with a word on it they couldn't see. Through asking a series of questions in 90 seconds they had to guess what the word was. Some of them were volleyball, Mickey Mouse, traffic officer and yoga.
The young girl who had excellent English, flubbed this section because her word was "credit card". She knew it had to do with banking and it was a thing, not a person, but she couldn't figure it out. And when time was up, she couldn't even begin to guess the answer and started to cry in front of the cameras and studio audience.
Everyone tried to console her, but it was no use. She wept openly even though everyone told her she was a "hero".
She and two other people were eliminated.
The finale was a major presentation each of the finalists had to give. Another young girl used two wooden clappers and performed a rhythmic poem about the environment and that we were all heroes.
Then a university student had two boxers come on stage pretending to spar with each other. It turns out she is an interpreter for a boxing coach and she explained how she was so thrilled to be chosen by this coach to help him communicate with Chinese boxers training for the Olympics.
Last but not least was the flashiest presentation of them all -- a police officer and his cohorts in uniform marched on stage. With slide images in the background, the officer talked about his experience being in London during the bombings two years ago and how he is proud to be helping with security for the Games next year. And also sharing the stage was an attractive dancer in a sexy police-like uniform who provided the eye candy.
It was no contest who won in the end.
While the actual "tests" the contestants had to go through were a bit strange, it was impressive to see the calibre of spoken English in Beijing.