While I flicked the remote and hit at the 2009 CCTV Cup English Speaking Contest just now, I couldn't but not but be hugely impressed by the performance of the youngsters who invariably did a marvellous job making a prepared speech, giving an impromptu talk and standing their ground when fiercely challenged by three seasoned challengers. The organisation, content and fluency of their speech, their composure, their ability to think on their feet, their pronuncation, even accent, were all almost spotless. While we have been so used to mocking the howlers we see on placards and in menus on a daily basis, we should not overlook the fact that in its quest for a stake in the world stage, China has churned out, among so many of its sub-standard products, these very competent kids who are ready to rule the world.
One interesting phenomenon is that out of the eight contestants of the day, only two were male. I wonder how much that may tell us about the difference in the language abilities between the sexes. Mind you, though, the young man whose performance I managed to see was very good, and he was voted as the best by the audience in the studio.