Expats eye Shenzhen in colorful ways in talent contest

Writer: Wang Haolan  | Editor: Holly Wang  | From: Shenzhen Daily | Updated: 2019-12-02

(From L) Second-prize winner Evgeniia Kozlova from Russia, first-prize winners Youcef Bensebaa from Algeria and Eli MacKinnon from the U.S., second-prize winner Michael-Aquila Gao from Russia, and third-prize winners Thomson Subash Mathew Sagaya Raja from India and Jakob Krogh-Jensen from Denmark pose for a photo at Futian Shangri-La yesterday. Sun Yuchen

At the venue of yesterday’s 10th Shenzhen Expats Chinese Talent Competition, 23-year-old Evgeniia Kozlova, together with another nine contestants, described Shenzhen as a city of opportunity in her topical speech while doing her makeup. She also brought a set of Hanfu with her to stage a traditional Chinese dance. The Russian won a second prize in the competition.

Futian Shangri-La hotel witnessed a feast of Chinese culture staged by expats of nine nationalities. The competition consisted of three rounds — a topical speech in Chinese on “Shenzhen, a city of __,” or “Shenzhen, a __ city,” a word-guessing game in Chinese and a talent show.

During the topical speech session, expats eyed the city in colorful ways by displaying their rich knowledge of Chinese vocabulary and idioms.

American Eli MacKinnon, 30, who preferred to be called by his Chinese name “Hong Ming,” shared his memories of the urban village Baishizhou in Nanshan District and compared Shenzhen to a cup of tea with a sweet aftertaste in his speech. “The power of Shenzhen also lies in the urban villages, which not only embrace people from across the world but also their dreams,” he said.

The destiny of a son-in-law from the U.S., who is visiting his Cantonese parents-in-law for the first time, triggered the curiosity of the audience. The short skit was an original work by MacKinnon. He used several witty puns in the skit to display the fruits he has gained from learning the language and the lessons he has learned by overcoming culture shock.

MacKinnon won the first prize in the adult group.

Twelve-year-old Algerian boy Youcef Bensebaa was another master of the Chinese language. He started his speech on the topic of “Shenzhen, a city of dreams” with an analogy from a Li Bai poem, giving a variety of examples of the city’s immaculate environment and great conveniences in life. The boy’s articulation and eloquence were further displayed when he gave a comprehensive introduction to Shenzhen in a Chinese allegro style. Bensebaa bagged the first prize in the teenager group.

Ten-year-old Michael-Aquila Gao, a multilingual Russian boy, came from Zhuhai. He is the only contestant who lives outside of Shenzhen.

MacKinnon told the Shenzhen Daily that the skit was a successful endeavor at cross-cultural communication. “Foreigners like me have seldom heard of those Chinese word games, so they will be curious about it and want to know more,” he said.

His view was agreed with by Peter Kalmykov, head of the academic department at Shenzhen MSU-BIT University. “I was amazed by the contestants’ deep understanding of the Chinese language, even though I have been learning Chinese for over 15 years,” he said.

“The competition showcased the essence of international civility and thus facilitated cultural exchanges. I was greatly impressed with how the contestants use the knowledge from their own cultures to interpret the Chinese language,” said judge Ye Danming.

This year’s competition was open to expatriates across the Pearl River Delta Region.

Launched in 2010, the competition is an annual event hosted by the Foreign Affairs Office of the Shenzhen Municipal Government and the Shenzhen Municipal Information Office, and organized by Shenzhen Daily and eyeshenzhen.com, the English-language portal of Shenzhen.