A four minute and 35-second speech in her native French about a Chinese sweatshop took Cloverdale student Coralie Tcheune across the country recently to Gatineau, Quebec, where she won a bronze medal.
The 17-year-old Grade 11 student from Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary did Surrey proud at the Canadian Parents for French 15th annual National Concours d’art oratoire competition on June 3rd.
“I was going up against Grade 12s from like really French provinces, so I was really excited when I won,” she said.
Tcheune seized gold with that same speech at a provincial competition last month at Surrey’s Simon Fraser University campus in Surrey. “In my category there were about 15 people, and it was a Grade 11 and 12 mixed category. It was people from all around B.C. and Yukon, and we got together over there, it was the first Saturday of May.”
Tcheune’s speech was about an electronics manufacturing company: “Basically it’s a sweatshop in China.”
Her thesis, she said, was “basically that we need to change all the abuse and torment that’s happening to the workers.”
“My first argument was if we change the working environment over there it would be beneficial to the health of the workers. It would also help with their financial state and finally it would lower the amount of suicide rate over there.”
People working at this place, she said, are “mostly children over the age of 12 until about I would say maybe 40 or 50 or until you’re either pregnant and they send you away and fire you or if you get injured they send you away and fire you.”
She said she found out about the situation from a friend, and researched it.
“I’ve always been interested in what happens in third-world countries, and the hardship, and I want to know what we can do here in first-world countries to help them out.”
Tcheune is a rare type who doesn’t get nervous speaking in public. “I love it,” she said. “It just comes to me naturally, ever since I was a kid. Next year I hope to compete again.”
Thirty-eight Grade 11 and 12 students participated in the nation-wide competition, out of 62,000 participants, all told.
“In my category there were six people.”
When she’s not delivering award-winning speeches, Tcheune is considering pursuing a career in medicine, maybe as an orthopaedic surgeon.