Pupils from across Northern Ireland gathered at Ulster University’s Belfast campus today (Wednesday, November 20 2019) in a bid to be crowned Northern Ireland’s best Mandarin Chinese speakers.
The pupils were taking part in the Belfast heat of this year’s British Council Mandarin Chinese Speaking Competition, which is supported by the Confucius Institute at Ulster University.
The winners of today’s heat will be announced next month after all the UK heats have been completed, and they will be put forward to the final in London in February 2020 with the overall winner winning a fully-funded educational and cultural visit to China.
Last year, the winners of the Northern Ireland heat - Thornhill College, Foyle College and Rathmore Grammar - went through to the UK-wide final – with Eve Flood, from Thornill College and Patrick Murray from Rathmore Grammar, taking first and second respectively in the Beginners’ Category.
The competition aims to encourage interest in Mandarin Chinese language and China's culture, with Mandarin ranked as one of the most vital languages to the UK over the next twenty years.
A report entitled ‘Languages for the Future’ published by the British Council, highlighted that only one per cent of UK adults can speak Chinese even though that same study revealed Mandarin to be the second most vital language for the UK’s future.
This is the third year the competition has taken place in Northern Ireland and saw entrants from both groups and individuals, with abilities ranging from beginner to advanced.
Speaking at the competition was Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland. He said: “Congratulations to all of the pupils who took to the stage today speaking in Mandarin. Like last year, the standards during today’s heat were very high and we hope again to see some of the students in London for the UK final.
“We are also really pleased to be working with the Confucius Institute at Ulster University for a third year, helping us reach out to schools across Northern Ireland who are already teaching Mandarin.
“This competition allows pupils to demonstrate the hard work and effort they have put into learning Mandarin. It’s really important that more young people have the chance to learn languages such as Mandarin, which provides an important insight into different ways of thinking and living. Languages open up exciting study, travel and work opportunities in our increasingly interconnected world.”
Pupils can compete in the Individual Language Ability or the Group Performance section. In the Individual section, contestants give a short presentation in Mandarin and translate sentences from English into Mandarin. In the Group Performance section, groups of five students of mixed Mandarin experience perform a piece of drama in Mandarin, involving imaginative performances and drama.
The national final of the Mandarin Speaking Competition will take place in London on 5 February 2020.
The British Council is the UK’s leading cultural relations organisation. For more information on the HSBC/ British Council Mandarin speaking competition, visit nireland.britishcouncil.org or follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI.