The 2021 BC Chinese Bridge Mandarin Singing Contest, organized by the UBC Chinese Language Program (CLP), drew a successful conclusion last December. It brought together a diverse community of Mandarin learners from a cluster of universities in British Columbia to showcase their creativity through music. A total of 27 teams participated in this year’s competition, the members of which came from not only UBC, but also the University of Victoria, the University of Fraser Valley, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Simon Fraser University, and Langara College. By organizing the singing contest into both heritage and non-heritage streams, the CLP strove to foster interactive and differentiated learning communities, while facilitating inter-university collaboration.
The online singing contest has created invaluable opportunities for students with multifaceted learning backgrounds to collaborate with each other across universities, extending both the online and offline learning communities. Jae Won Seok, a student from CHIN 131 at UBC, is the leader of the team “Korean Ladies” that consists of students from UBC, SFU, and self-learners. She explained how she was able to make more friends and realize her language learning potential by participating in the singing contest:
“I was compelled to step outside of my comfort zone … The more I interacted with new students, the more I acquainted myself with new facets of UBC’s Mandarin Learning Community, which helped me establish more long-term friendships with fellow peers who [also] wish to pursue further education in Chinese. The Chinese Bridge Mandarin Singing Contest was … an opportunity to grow my presence in UBC’s Mandarin Learning Community.”
The contest’s varied award categories in, for example, best pronunciation, greatest creativity, and best Chinese style, enabled the participants to focus on different facets of language learning and encouraged them to immerse themselves in Chinese culture. This year’s contest differed from previous ones in featuring a stream for heritage contestants, who often have distinctive attachments to and cultural connections with songs in Mandarin. For instance, Isabelle Dion and Caitlin Khong, students from CHIN 141, a beginner Chinese heritage course at UBC, performed a localized Mandarin adaptation of Always With Me, the thematic song from the popular Studio Ghibli movie Spirited Away. Isabelle explains how the singing contest drew her attention to how singing and storytelling had subtle influences on the way of articulating Mandarin:
“After 3 months of Chinese class, we feel that our Mandarin skills have improved… [so we] have chosen to do a creative Chinese rendition of [a theme song from] Spirited Away. [This contest] helped me understand…how the pronunciations of different words change in the context of storytelling and music, making me appreciate the language and culture much more.”
Ultimately, the singing contest enhanced interaction within supportive learning communities thanks to the magic power of music in bringing people together regardless of their experiences. Indeed, songs functioned as a medium that fostered inclusivity and connection. The participants were able to connect with one another through their voices and improve their speaking and listening skills. Kim Haein, the leader of Team Dumplings and a student from CHIN 131, reflected on how the contest served as a cultural bridge that linked all Mandarin learners across British Columbia:
“This experience helped me connect with other Mandarin learning students from various institutions across BC by being able to watch their performances and seeing how they were able to use their Mandarin skills to perform a song in their second language. It was inspiring to see so many Chinese learners out there that share the same passion and joy that I have for Mandarin learning.”
In summary, the 2021 BC Chinese Bridge Mandarin Singing Contest achieved a huge success in bringing students together from different universities, proficiency levels, and cultural backgrounds. The event exemplified the sense of community and belonging that the Chinese Language Program constantly strives for. Connecting with one another through music enabled students to not only hone their language skills, but also gain a deeper understanding of culture as well.
Congratulations to all the winners of the 2021 BC Chinese Bridge Mandarin Singing Contest! All the winning videos for this year’s contest can be found here.
Written by Carrie Li
Edited by Shih-wei Wang