Darrell Day, a BYU student majoring in Chinese and Economics, went to Beijing this past summer to compete in the International Chinese Bridge.
PROVO, Utah (Oct. 11, 2016) — BYU student Darrell Day is now somewhat of a minor Chinese reality T.V. star. This past summer, Day participated in the 15th Annual International Chinese Bridge Competition held in Beijing as one of 148 contestants from countries all around the world.
The Chinese bridge competition has a sort of game show feel where students are required to show competency in several different areas of Chinese, including speaking, writing and knowledge of culture. For the cultural knowledge portion, the students compete against various young Chinese celebrities, mostly from the Hunan Broadcasting System.
During the day the contestants would tour various notable sites like the Great Wall. They would also visit rising Chinese businesses and meet top executives. “It was definitely weird because we would go out on the street and people would recognize the Chinese Bridge logo and know who we were,” commented Day.
The Chinese Bridge is held annually and is compiled of advanced Chinese students from over 109 different countries. “I’ve been just a little obsessed with Chinese since my mission, so it was really cool to see that there are other people who are just as serious about learning the language as I am,” Darrell said. His love of Chinese started in London, England, where he served, Mandarin speaking.
Day’s mission experience was his first real exposure to the Mandarin language. “I took a class at the U of U before my mission after I had received my call and knew I was going to speak Chinese, but I basically learned ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye’ and ‘can I eat this?’ So when I got to the MTC, it really was like starting out with nothing,” Day explained.
The process of making it to Beijing required Day to win the BYU preliminaries, then to move on to the national competition held in Washington D.C. In the national preliminaries Day placed first. From there the top contestants went to Beijing where the international competition is held; Day made it to the top ten.
“There was a student about six years ago who qualified to go international, but ended up not being able to. Darrell is the first BYU student to compete in China,” commented ShuPei Wang, an associate teaching professor of Chinese. “It is a unique experience for Darrell and BYU. He has more opportunities to let people know where he is from and who he is. It is really good for the Chinese Flagship program that Darrell made it so far.”
To do well in the competition requires extensive work. “There’s no way to just prepare for the competition like the A.C.T. or S.A.T. They need to have knowledge of Chinese history, culture, poetry, dynasties and all sorts of other things. They really have to accumulate knowledge of Chinese language and culture over years of study,” said Wang.
Day studied all aspects of Chinese life that would help him in the competition as well as improve his Chinese. “I loved learning about Chinese philosophy and poetry. The writings of Chinese men, even from 2000 years ago, are still very prevalent in the culture today.” He continued, “It was cool to be able to throw out some Chinese proverb or quote that I had studied because I know that is so important to them.”
Though Day does not quite know where his education is going to take him next, he is absolutely sure he will keep improving his chinese skills. Day said, “One reason that I love Chinese is that it’s such a deep language and there are so many parts to it. No matter how much I study, I feel like there is always more to learn and master.”
For more information about Day’s experience with the national portion of the competition, visit http://humanities.byu.edu/byu-students-top-national-chinese-competition/.
—Hannah Sandorf (BA Art History and Curatorial Studies ‘17)
Hannah covers events for the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages for the College of Humanities. She is a junior pursuing a degree in art history with a minor in art.
Images of the competition courtesy of the Asian and Near Eastern Languages Department.