Four University of Wisconsin students won first prize and five won second prize at the Midwest Chinese Bridge speech contest held on campus.

Hongming Zhang, a professor in the department of Asian languages and cultures, said 50 students from 16 universities in the Midwest attended the final regional contest, which is one of six district contests in the nation. The contest, which has been held for 16 years, is a global competition for college Chinese language learners all over the world.

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UW student Tucker Penney, a computer science major, won first prize in the advanced high level group. Zhang praised Penney’s pronunciation as “amazingly good.”

Consul General of China to Chicago Lei Hong said he was impressed by the progress these students had made in Chinese studies.

“The performances of singing and Tai Chi are very impressive,” Hong said.

UW student Tyler Ruzicka is majoring in Chinese and linguistics and has studied Chinese for five years. He said the Chinese language is very interesting and unique.

“Some day I think it would be fun to travel around China and learn how the different dialects formed,” Ruzicka said.

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Abigail Ziemkowski, a participant from the University of Michigan, said she first learned Chinese from a Chinese-American friend in high school, but she learned Chinese characters and Gongbi painting, a traditional realistic Chinese painting technique, in college.

Ziemkowski said as a freshman majoring in Chinese and art, she intends to tie her majors together in a future career.

During a nine month study abroad program in China, Ziemkowski said the most interesting culture conflict she found was Chinese people like drinking hot water while Americans love cold water.

The contest is sponsored by the Chinese government to promote Chinese culture around the world. For students who are interested in studying abroad in China, Hong highly recommended them to apply for scholarships provided by the Chinese government.