SAN FRANCISCO, April 21 (Xinhua) -- A preliminary contest of the 18th "Chinese Bridge" Chinese proficiency competition ended here Sunday with nine college students from Northern California declared winners honored with different prizes.
A total of 22 students took part in the competition after they were selected from the University of California system, the San Francisco State University (SFSU) system, Stanford University and other colleges.
The participants showcased their Chinese language proficiency, including a three-minute speech in Chinese, Chinese poetry recital and dances.
Bakari Smith, a 21-year-old senior student of Stanford University majoring in international relations and East Asia study, won the first place in Sunday's contest.
"I've started to attend Chinese language contests featuring speeches and Chinese poetry recital since I was in grade nine at high school, and I've done so almost every year," he said in fluent Chinese.
"I won a Third Place Award in my third year in university, but I was not satisfied with it, for I want to do better," he added.
"This year's contest is my last chance because I will graduate from Stanford in 56 days, and I want to prove to my parents and teachers that the time and energy spent on Chinese language study is worthwhile," Smith explained.
Chinese is a beautiful language and China has a wonderful culture, he said. "I love the contest because it gave me opportunities to make friends from other universities."
"Though we came from different places with diversified cultural backgrounds, we can still sing songs together, as demonstrated by the theme of the Chinese Bridge competition -- 'One World and One Family'" Smith said.
His mother, Julie Smith, said Chinese is a great language to learn.
"More people in the world speak Mandarin than any other language, and living in San Francisco, there is a very large Chinese population. So it just made sense," she said. "He fell in love with the language in the (Chinese) culture."
"The Chinese competition is a great way to bridge different cultures, across American and Chinese cultures. At this time, it's important to have those bridges," she added.
Laura Anderson, a sophomore from Butte College in Chico, about 263 km northeast of San Francisco, won the Prize for Best Talent and Second Place Award for her amazing dance about the ancient Chinese tragic love story of The Legend of the White Snake, one of China's Four Great Folktales.
"I was really fascinated with the West Lake in China, where the love story took place. I learned about that story during my first semester of Chinese. So I could choose a performance for the second semester, even though the dance was kind of long, I felt like the story was really important to me and chose to perform it," Anderson said.
Though it's only eight months since she began to learn Chinese, she felt proud of her decision then, she said.
"I really just like the language, the way it sounds and the tones, and the more I learn about it, the more I like the culture," she talked about her experience in learning Chinese language.
The competition was co-organized by the Confucius Institute Headquarters, the Confucius Institute at the SFSU, and the Education Office of the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco.
Top two winners from Sunday's contest will be recommended to compete in a regional competition scheduled for May 4 with other top winners from the Confucius Institutes in the states of Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
The regional competition will select two university students and two middle school students for the final contest to be held in China later this year.