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Contest Rules


The contest is open to students regularly enrolled in middle and high school language courses. Students may compete only in languages and levels for courses in which they are currently enrolled (except for Native Level where students do not have to be currently enrolled in a course--see below). In the case of block scheduling, a student who has completed a language course in the spring (e.g. Level II) and who is not currently enrolled in that language may compete at the level most recently completed. 

LANGUAGE - Contest competitions are offered in the following languages: American Sign Language, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian and Spanish.


  • For French and Spanish contests, a limit of only two students per teacher per category may register.
  • For Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, and Russian contests, a limit of only four students per teacher per category may register.
  • For ASL contests, there is no limit of students per teacher per category.

Categories (for all Languages except ASL)

These categories include Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian and Spanish.

Entrants must specify their Language, Level, and Class, as described below, except for students with native language speaking ability. Native speakers, regardless of their year level in school or in a foreign language class, must compete in the "Native" category AND must recite Level IV poems.

LEVEL - This indicates the year level of the foreign language course the student is enrolled in.

  • Level 1 = Students in First Year courses.
  • Level 2 = Students in Second Year courses.
  • Level 3 = Students in Third Year courses.
  • Level 4 = Students in Fourth Year courses, AP courses or higher.

CLASS - This indicates experience. 

  • CLASS A = Students whose contact with the foreign language has been limited to the classroom only
  • CLASS B = Students who have had significant contact with the foreign language either at home or abroad, but who are not fluent 
  • Note: Students enrolled in the 5th year courses or higher and students enrolled in AP language courses should compete in Level 4B.

NATIVE CATEGORY - Students at ANY language level, who have a speaking proficiency equivalent to that of a native speaker, must enroll in the Native Category AND recite Level IV poems. This is regardless of their year in school or their year in a foreign language class. Native entrants must be current middle or high school students, but not necessarily enrolled in a language course.

Categories for ASL

CLASS A: Students of ASL and CODAs (children of deaf adults) who are not fluent.

CLASS B: Native ASL users and CODAs with proficiency equivalent to native users.


Teachers should make a careful distinction among Classes A, B, and Native categories.

Students may be disqualified if, in the opinion of the judges, they are in the wrong level or class. 

If there are questions, please call 864-656-2852 or e-mail Su-I Chen (


1. Each participant will recite two selections from memory:

     (1) The Mandatory Selection and

     (2) a Second Selection chosen from the other three selections given.

IMPORTANT: No change or variation of the text as given will be accepted. Students must recite the selections as they are posted.

2. An attempt will be made to place students of the same teacher into different contest groups. However, this placement is not always possible and students of the same teacher may compete against each other. The placement into contests is dependent upon the number of students registered for a level.

3. A prompter will be available in each contest room and will be seated near the front of the room. Contestants should check with the Contest Room Supervisor as to the exact location of the prompter as they enter the contest room to recite their poems. Contestants should signal the prompter (for example, by looking at him/her) if they need help.

4. Contestants in the same contest will not be permitted to hear other contestants reciting the Mandatory Selection. Contestants may, however, listen to their competing peers' Second Selection.

5. Teachers, parents, and friends of the contestants are invited to join the audience in the contest rooms, but we do ask that no one enter or leave a room while a recitation is in progress. Please remember, however, that contestants in the same contest will not be permitted to hear other contestants reciting the Mandatory Selection. Contestants may, however, listen to their competing peers' Second Selection.

6. Judges base their decision on pronunciation, interpretation of text, smoothness of delivery and textural accuracy. All results are final.

  • Textual Accuracy: How accurate is the recitation of the poem text? Does the contestant leave out words or lines, or does he/she confuse the order of the lines / stanzas?
  • Pronunciation: Does the contestant have clear pronunciation?
  • Text Interpretation: Does the contestant use appropriate phrasing, pauses, tone of voice to interpret the poems? Gestures are permitted but they should not detract from the presentation of the poems. No props are allowed. No singing of the poems is allowed.
  • Smoothness of Delivery: How smooth is the delivery of the poems? Does the contestant break the continuity of the poem? Does he/she call on the prompter? Calling on the prompter would be considered a break in continuity.

Scoring for ASL Poems

  • Accuracy: Presents entire poem; Includes all phonological components of poem; Uses correct rhythm and stress
  • Non-Manual behaviors: Uses grammatical and emotive facial expression consistently and correctly; Appropriate eye-gaze, body movements, role shift and non-manual markers (eyes, eyebrows, lips, head, body/shoulders) 
  • Clarity: Signs are produced clearly and artistically; Correct use of 4 parameters (handshape, palm orientation, location and movement)
  • Smoothness of Delivery: Continuous flow of signs, moves comfortably from one sign to the next; Does not hesitate, poem is practiced and polished

7. First, second and third place prizes will be awarded at the discretion of the judges. Prizes will be presented at the Awards Ceremony which follows the completion of all contests (approximately 1:30 p.m. in Tillman Hall Auditorium).

8. Use of Props: Props of any kind are not permitted. Singing is also prohibited. While the use of gestures is permitted, they should not detract from the presentation of the poem.

9. Hallway noise and congestion: Please remind your students, their parents and yourselves to refrain from talking or congregating in the hallways while the contest is in session. We want to ensure that noise does not interfere with the contestants' recitations or the judges' ability to hear them. We are planning on designating rooms on the different floors as waiting rooms for parents, teachers and students who have finished their recitations. Once students have completed both selections, please arrange to meet your students in the designated waiting areas so that we can keep the hallways free of noise and congestion.