The 14th National English Speech Contest has attracted two million college students in its online preliminary selection since opening three months ago.
The competition, jointly sponsored by the China Daily, the country's leading English-language newspaper, and the Lenovo Group, chose "the city and the quality of life" as its theme.
Topics of the speeches may cover city construction, environment protection, migration and communication, as well as social problems brought about by urbanization.
Huang Qing, the newspaper's managing editor, said on Thursday at a press release the competition would have four stages, i.e. preliminary selection online, oral test via the phone, regional contests and final contest.
At the first stage, contestants can submit their recitals of English stories, poems, film scripts and even songs to the official website. The public are invited to vote for talented contestants either online or through mobile phone messages.
To enhance the transparency and fairness of the competition's judging system, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) was invited to provide professional testing standards and expert support, as well as offering topics and scenarios from the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), for the oral exam portion of the competition.
Learning English became a fashion and even a fever since China adopted its reform and opening-up policy 30 years ago. Almost all college students in the country study English as a touching stone to apply for overseas studies. In recent years, English skill has become a necessary quality to get a good job.
For a long time, English teaching in China emphasized more on reading and writing instead of listening and speaking, therefore, students could easily get high exam scores despite poor spoken English.
To improve the situation, China began to change the English teaching methods in 2002 by emphasizing the ability of communication.
Liu Xianghong, a Ministry of Education official, said the competition not only gives students a platform to showcase their language skill, but also encourages Chinese schools to improve communication-oriented teaching methods of English.
Li Yanshu, a member of the jury committee and a Beijing Language and Culture University professor, said the competition had become a sub-regional contest for the UK-based International English Speaking Competition; Chinese contestants had gained wide acclaim from the international circle.
According to the organizer, the final competition will be held in April.
(Xinhua News Agency October 10, 2008)