7th Grade Immersion student Olivia Meredith demonstrated her Chinese fluency on a popular Chinese game show over the summer
Originally published by Minnetonka Public Schools on Aug. 19, 2014
With back to school just around the corner, Minnetonka Middle School East 7th Grader Olivia Meredith is going to have a very unique story to share with her classmates about what she did over her summer vacation.
Back in July, Olivia, a Chinese Immersion student at MME, was invited by the University of Minnesota’s Confucius Institute to audition for a Chinese game show called “My Chinese Spelling Hero.” After an submitting her application and a two-minute video introducing herself (all done in Chinese), she was selected as a contestant and flown to Beijing with her parents.
On the popular game show, students from across China compete in a spelling-bee like competition, where students aim to correctly spell a word using Chinese characters. This summer, the show also featured a group of foreigners to demonstrate how Mandarin is being taught around the world.
“It was really fun,” Olivia said.
Contestants used iPads to write down characters that appeared on screen. They earned credits with each correct answer, with the ultimate goal of reaching a four-person judges panel consisting of Chinese celebrities. Using what she’s learned since Kindergarten in Minnetonka’s Chinese Immersion program, Olivia was able to make it all the way to the panel.
“Minnetonka has excellent Chinese teachers, and we are very fortunate for that,” Olivia’s mom, Beth, said.
The trip was an all-inclusive Chinese experience for Olivia, as she had to communicate in the language the whole time she was there. On the show, she stood out amongst a group of students from around the world — including Indonesia, Canada and Russia — who were four to six years her senior.
“They were all really nice,” Olivia said. “We all had the Chinese language in common, so it didn’t feel like much of a difference.”
Olivia’s father, John, believes that, despite her young age, she had an advantage because of the environment in which she learned the language. While the other contestants were taught in a traditional high school setting, Olivia has been immersed in the language since she began formal schooling at Minnetonka at age five.
“The fact that they’ve learned it at such an early age, teachers say she doesn’t have an accent, so she’s really pure in her speaking,” John Meredith said. “That’s the immersion experience. Because it’s all day long, it’s so much more involved with the writing, the speaking and the listening.”
She did so well, in fact, that the show is considering bringing her back.
Olivia has no plans to stop her Chinese education, saying that she sees it as a powerful building block for her future.
“I want to get a job where I can use my Chinese down the road,” she said.