Sydney: Trinity Grammar School students, brothers William and James Saunders of Erskineville, aged 9 and 7 respectively, have each won their age division at the Grand Final of ‘Voice of Hua Yun’ Chinese Recitation held in Beijing in August 2019.
Year 2 Junior School student James won the Age Champion for Year 1 and 2 and managed to score the highest mark of the entire competition. Brother, William of Year 4 won Age Champion for Year 3 and 4 and managed to attain the second highest mark of the entire competition. Not bad for two brothers who are non-native Mandarin speakers!
The brothers secured their place in the international competition by winning the 2019 ‘Hello Mandarin’ Recitation Competition Australia 2019. It is the second time the boys have reached the Grand Final in China, with William winning the event last year as well. The boys competed with participants from seven countries, including Australia, USA, Canada, New Zealand, United Arabic Emirates, Portugal and Spain. They were required to recite a poem or story and were judged on voice, expression, action, facial expressions, emotion pronunciation, fluency and understanding of the poems and stories.
Mum Neesha Gan said: “This year’s competition has more international competitors and the standard is a lot higher than last year, so the boys’ achievements this year are truly admirable and to be honest came as a complete surprise to their father, John and me!”
The boys are coached and were accompanied in China by their Trinity Grammar School Mandarin teacher Mary Wang who at last year’s international competition was awarded Best Instructor as chosen by the event organisers. Mary says she is proud of how far her Mandarin students have come. “Last year we had 11 boys participate in the NSW competition, with three of them making the Australian final and going on to compete in Beijing where they each won their division. This year, 30 students participated in the state competition, 13 of them made the national competition and 13 qualified for the International grand final in Beijing, although only James and William were able to make it to China for the event!”
Neesha is thankful the boys have such a dedicated Mandarin teacher: “She has nurtured my boys and many others to love learning the Mandarin language by her passion for the promotion of it and the Chinese culture.”
The Saunders boys have gained the attention of international media, being invited to appear on ‘Voice of Kids’ by Hubei TV, one of the biggest TV stations in China while they are in Beijing. The programme features children performing recitations and the episode will focus on Australian children learning Chinese.
For William, last year’s win had a profound impact and it wasn’t limited to his Mandarin studies. It has inspired a detailed painting as part of a school art project to investigate colour and art. Given the concept: ‘The painter of the future will be a colourist and fit together the jigsaw pieces of colour in ways no one has before,’ William chose to depict hundreds of colourful faces looking up to a stage. It is an expression of the feeling and emotion he experienced while performing in the finals of the recitation competition in China in front of a crowd. William used a cubism approach to create the artwork and was inspired by Pablo Picasso’s style to paint the many colourful faces in the crowd. It took him more than five months to complete.
“My art project relates to when I was in China on the stage reciting my Mandarin story in front of thousands. I was choosing my happiest feeling and I remembered this experience. I was scared and nervous, but in the end, I felt proud and happy because I had won the competition,” he reflected. William’s Art teacher Finella Clark said William’s work was an “Extremely successful and beautiful piece of art.”
Mrs Wang said, “Regardless of awards, the experience has been an enriching and valuable one for my students.”