Students from Northern Ireland have come out top in a UK-wide Mandarin Speaking Competition.
Eve Flood from Thornhill College in Derry~Londonderry and Patrick Murray, a student at Rathmore Grammar, have come first and second respectively in the Beginners Category of the HSBC Briitsh Council Mandarin Speaking Competition, which was held at the British Museum in London today (Wednesday, February 6 2019).
The pupils made it through to the final after competing in the Northern Ireland heat last November which was supported by the Confucius Institute at Ulster University.
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 ahead of the competition, Eve said: “This is my first time competing in any kind of public speaking competition so I am quite proud to be competing at a national level. Preparation for the final involves a lot of work but it has really encouraged me and made me more confident in my Mandarin speaking ability.
“I’m excited to meet the other competitors, and I know that my experience in the final will be a rewarding one because I get to promote and celebrate a language that I love.
“I’ve been learning Mandarin for just over a year, but I hope to continue once I finish school. This competition is an incentive for me to work harder at learning Mandarin and hopefully improve my level of fluency in the language.”
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.
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.