A Derry~Londonderry pupil has come out top in a UK-wide Mandarin Speaking Competition.
Eve Flood from Thornhill College has scooped the Beginners prize in the HSBC British Council Mandarin Speaking Competition, which was held at the British Museum in London recently (Wednesday, February 6 2019).
Fellow Northern Ireland pupil, Patrick Murray from Rathmore Grammar, also celebrated success by coming second in the same category.
Eve, who has only been learning Mandarin for a year, beat off competition from across the UK to win a week-long trip to Beijing in China.
Speaking about her win, Eve said: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’ve won – I really don’t feel any different. It was announced in assembly and a lot of people have been congratulating me - though because I have exams this week, that’s what I’m mainly concentrating on and I’ll probably feel different after they’re over!
“My parents think it’s fantastic that I’ve won, they don’t know much about Mandarin, but they have been very encouraging and have instilled a lot of confidence in me.”
Eve, who is in her final year studying Chemistry, Biology and Maths, plans to study either Pharmacy or Chemistry at Queen’s University in Belfast.
On her plans for the future, she said: “I definitely hope to continue to learn Mandarin when I leave school, in whatever form that may take.
“It’s hard to describe why I enjoy learning Mandarin; It definitely relaxes me and is a break from the everyday. I like seeing how much progress I make, and although it can sometimes be slow and challenging, it is very satisfying when you make that necessary connection or when you start to become familiar with certain characters and their pronunciation.”
Currently, Year 10 and Year 13 pupils at Thornhill learn Mandarin as part of their enrichment programme.
John Gallagher, Senior teacher at Thornhill College said: “We are absolutely delighted by Eve’s win – it’s a phenomenal achievement especially for someone who has been learning Mandarin for such a short time.
“Language learning has taken a backward step in a lot of schools because of the promotion of STEM subjects, but we hope that Eve’s success will help build on the interest in learning Mandarin, as well as other languages here at Thornhill.”
The competition, run annually by the British Council since 2003, drew 110 contestants from 37 secondary schools from both state and independent sector across the UK. A heat was held in Northern Ireland last November which was supported by the Confucius Institute at Ulster University.
This is only the second year schools from Northern Ireland have taken part in the competition, after Lumen Christi College, Loreto Grammar School and Rathmore Grammar School all got through to last year’s final.
Pupils at the final competed in either the Individual Language Ability or Group Performance section. In the Individual section, contestants gave a short presentation in Mandarin, translated sentences from English into Mandarin, and were tested on their knowledge of China and Chinese culture.
As the most spoken language in the world, Mandarin Chinese is vital for the UK’s place in the world. Recent British Council research has highlighted that Mandarin is the top non-European language in its report Languages for the Future.
Speaking about Eve’s win was Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland.
He said: “Congratulations to Eve on such a fantastic achievement, which is testament to the hard work she and her teachers have put in throughout the past year. We hope that Eve will be an inspiration to other students to think about learning Mandarin or finding out more about Chinese language and culture.
“In the British Council we have a wide range of opportunities and resources available to support schools who are keen to get more involved in international work and would encourage other schools to get in touch with us to see how we can support their international ambitions.”
The British Council has also just launched the ‘Year of the Pig Primary Education Pack’ to help children across the UK celebrate Chinese New Year and learn more about China and its culture.
The British Council is the UK’s leading cultural relations organisation. For more information on current opportunities in Northern Ireland, visit nireland.britishcouncil.org, or follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI