An high school freshman from Dorchester has won first place at the National Chinese Language speechwriting contest. Rayshon Thompson, 15, of Boston Latin High School, started studying Mandarin Chinese only a year and seven months ago with his Latin School Chinese language teacher, Mrs. Yang.
"Everyday after-school, Mrs. Yang focused on memorization of the speech, then afterwards we started to make up questions that we thought the judges might ask (me)," said Thompson.
Thompson can read and write basic sentences in Mandarin Chinese, though he is not fluent in Mandarin Chinese nor has he ever been to China — yet. After winning the competition this month, Thompson will now have an opportunity to go to China for two weeks to compete with other speechwriting students, mostly older than he, from other countries such as Russia, Singapore and South Africa for the World Speech Writing Contest in Beijing, China.
Thompson is the youngest of six siblings. He has four brothers and two sisters. He says that his father inspired him to learn Chinese. He can also speak Latin, which is a required language for all Latin School students. He chose to learn Mandarin Chinese as all students at Boston Latin need to select another language as part of their school curriculum.
Thompson practiced his Mandarin with other Chinese speakers by seeking them out on myspace.com. There he would exchange e-mails with other Chinese speakers and get his grammar corrected by his online Chinese speaking friends.
"During the competition, I was nervous," said Thompson. "But it was a good opportunity to meet people from all over the country."