Education news

Derry pupil named 'best Mandarin speaker'

Eve Flood from Thornhill College in Derry scooped the beginners prize in the British Council Mandarin Speaking Competition

A DERRY pupil has come out top in a UK-wide Mandarin speaking competition.

Eve Flood from Thornhill College scooped the beginners prize in the HSBC British Council Mandarin Speaking Competition, which was held at the British Museum in London.

Patrick Murray from Rathmore Grammar in Belfast, also celebrated success by coming second in the same category.

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.

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.

Eve, who has only been learning Mandarin for a year, beat competition from across the UK to win a week-long trip to Beijing in China.

"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, that's what I'm mainly concentrating on and maybe I'll feel different after they're over," 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 learningMandarin;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.

Senior teacher John Gallagher said language learning had taken a backward step in a lot of schools because of the promotion of `stem' subjects.

"We hope that Eve's success will help build on the interest in learning Mandarin, as well as other languages here at Thornhill."

British Council Northern Ireland Director Jonathan Stewart said he hoped Eve would be an inspiration to other pupils.

"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," he said.

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