Participants of Chinese Writing Contest 2023 share their writing experiences
So, what is it like to write with only 320 Chinese characters?
Below are the replies that I received from some of this year’s participants.
Writing is a lonely process. You can discuss some ideas or choices of words with others. But you must struggle through the most difficult stages alone.
This is the nature of writing. Participating a writing contest doesn’t change its nature. Therefore, experience sharing becomes important. It brings us closer. Previously, I just copied and pasted a few lines into the “Feedbacks around the world” section on the Contest page. But it really diminished the effect. Therefore, this time, experience sharing has its very own news article. It’s long overdue already.
This year, 23 submissions are received. I hate to say that this is the lowest number in three years of running. But, I’m happy to see that participants are coming from a wide range of countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, South Korea, Switzerland, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, the United States, and China.
Some of them shared their writing experiences with me. From which I sensed a common trait among them, their determination and dedication. I’m sure that these characteristics will benefit and give a boost to whatever activities that they choose to pursue.
By the way, Anton and Robert, your submissions are received. You didn’t get a confirmation email because the email sent to you was bounced back. There might be a typing error in your email address.
Now let’s take a look at what these participants said (with my comments in brackets):
- Jasmine wrote about how writing connects and how competition makes people stronger (Absolutely!):
At times, using only 320 Chinese characters felt limiting, but it felt great to overcome the challenge and learn new synonyms. My mother does not know Mandarin very well, but by using only 320 characters, I created a story that she was able to understand. This felt amazing because it's simply terrible to have language barriers within family. Language barriers within family have become increasingly common in this modern age with viable transportation to different countries and interracial marriage, but I was able to use the 320 characters to overcome my barrier.
I think that competitions with a limited amount of characters and competitions with an unlimited amount of characters have benefits. However, whenever most people write, they write with unlimited characters. This makes writing within limits a unique and valuable experience that can make even experienced learners of Mandarin stronger.
- Xinling wrote about the difficulties of writing with only 320 Chinese characters (If it were easy, ChatGPT would be able to do it.):
I encountered many difficulties during the writing process.
The first time I wrote it based on my own ideas. The composition submitted is my second adaptation. In the second adaptation, I changed some characters from the first essay to the required 320 characters.
So this process is very difficult. And I know the second adaptation is not as good as the first one, although it also conveys the meaning I want to convey.
Thank you for your essay competition, which allowed me to write this story.
- Janine compared Chinese Writing Contest with HSK (How I love this comparison!):
Writing a story using only 320 frequently used Chinese characters was undeniably a challenging task. It was more difficult than preparing for the HSK test!
However, this constraint fuelled my creativity, allowing me to think outside the box. I thought of how my story could be a valuable learning resource for new and current learners, so its educational potential carefully guided my character and word choices.
I did not think that I could have done it, but now, I feel more confident about writing short stories in Chinese.
- Germaine’s experience was trials and errors (Just as all the literary masters who have walked the same path.):
I would love to share my experience. First impression, I thought that 320 Chinese characters was a lot of characters and I had plenty of characters to work with, but when I began writing my poem, I realised it was not as easy as I thought it would be. There were many times where I could not find the word I wanted to use or fit best in my poem, so this was where the skill of playing with words came in.
I had to rephrase and try over and over again to see what words or phrases I could replace, with what was given. It was all about trial and error. In the end, I managed to create a poem using only the 320 Chinese characters given after a few weeks of hard work and perseverance.
- Nicholas demonstrates that we can never overstate the importance of perseverance in all human activities (Never give up!):
I am passionate about learning Chinese as a second language and feel thankful towards MSL Master for giving me the opportunity to feel a part of a community of students who share this passion.
Although I struggled with the vocabulary and grammar at times, this experience has taught me to persevere, and as a result, I felt proud of creating a new story in a non-native language.
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Thank all these participants for sharing their valuable thoughts and experiences.
If you’d like to share some of your thoughts, email me or post it in my Facebook group - Aspiring Chinese Language Writers (https://www.facebook.com/groups/5111909188906999/ ).
Public voting starts soon.
About the Author
April Zhang is the founder of MSL Master and she enjoys teaching and interacting with students. She constantly explores new and interesting ways of teaching Chinese through creative and imaginative activities.
With her help, many students have achieved outstanding result, which has enriched their understanding about China and has significantly contributed to their work.