Two weekends ago in New York City, Matt LaRose ’16 competed at the junior level in the Hong Kong Cup Chinese Speech Contest (HKCup) with the theme of “How To Enhance Hong Kong-U.S. Relations.” The contest was organized by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York (HKETONY), celebrating its 30th anniversary in the city.
LaRose was one of 16 contestants from a total of 10 colleges and universities: Brown, Cornell, Harvard, Hunter, Indiana, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, SUNY New Paltz, Swarthmore, Wesleyan and Williams were invited to participate in the contest.
In addition to Mandarin Chinese, LaRose also speaks Spanish, French, some German, Arabic and a little Russian. “I just really like studying languages,” LaRose said. He studies multiple languages at the College, including Chinese. In fact, even though one of his best friends from his home in Holyoke, Mass., is Chinese, LaRose did not begin studying Mandarin until coming to the College. “Having a lot of languages under my belt is a significant help with what I want to do [in the future],” said LaRose, a computer science major.
LaRose learned about the contest last year when the HKCup organizers toured a number of northeastern campuses to advertise the contest. Even though he did not want to enter the contest at first, his professors persuaded him that even if he did not win, he would always be able to re-enter in the coming years.
At the contest, speakers developed a three-minute speech based on the theme, “Best Way to Promote Understanding and Exchanges between Hong Kong and the U.S.A.,” specifically focusing on either arts and entertainment, education or environmental protection. LaRose chose the arts and education sub-category. “Environmental protection would be pretty much impossible for me to do as a speech in Chinese,” he said. “I assumed everyone would go with education, so I decided to settle on arts and entertainment and came up with cartoons. My reasoning was that it seems like Japanese culture boomed in the world as a partial result of anime. There was a bit about how Hong Kong movies were popular in the ’90s, and so Hong-Kong style entertainment has potential to be popular here,” LaRose said.
In this competition, LaRose won in the second tier of prizes, earning the title “Most Promising Speaker – Silver,” which came with a new Kindle, as well as other gift cards and prizes. While he did not win in the top tier (or the top three), who won a trip to Hong Kong, LaRose is happy with his placement.
Additional reporting by Paige Wilkinson ’16.