Kiwi teens win international Chinese language competition
Elisa Martin Moses, a Macleans College Year 13 student, has stunned international judges with her excellent knowledge of the Chinese Mandarin language.
At the ninth Chinese Bridge, a Chinese proficiency competition for secondary school students around the world that was held last month in Kunming, in southwest China, the New Zealand team, represented by East Auckland’s Elisa and Joape Nagera of Rotorua Boy’s High, won the Oceania title and ranked as one of the world’s top five.
High-achieving young students of the Chinese language from 89 countries competed over five rounds to show their command of it through written exams, speeches, a talent show, fun sport activities and sitcoms.
To get selected for the international contest, the two had to go through regional and national tests in New Zealand. In the final national competition, Elisa placed first and Joape second.
After learning the language for 15 years, it was was the first time Elisa had been to China.
“Everything is so big and there are so many people,” the 19-year-old says, about her first impression of the Asian country.
Visiting the Juyongguan Great Wall and seeing pandas in the zoo in Beijing, and interactions with farmers in tea gardens in Kunming, made her tour even more memorable.
Exposed to Chinese culture when growing up in Malaysia, she has been enchanted by the shapes and forms of Chinese characters since she was very young.
She started learning the language when she was in kindergarten.
“I love Chinese culture very much,” Elisa says. “The literature, dance, music and calligraphy.”
Her secret to achieving proficiency has been simple – keep practising – whether it’s written or spoken.
Macleans College’s Chinese teacher Siming Hu, who escorted the NZ team to China, says parents have expressed their interest in encouraging children to learn the language, at the school’s parent-teacher meetings.
“With China’s economic development and the arrival of more Chinese immigrants and international students, more parents and students in New Zealand think Chinese is an important language to learn.”
Both Elisa and Joape have won a Confucius Institute scholarship to study in China for a year, with return trip tickets.
Elisa’s thinking about studying Chinese in Beijing or Shanghai in the next two years, which she believes is a journey that’s worth continuing.
“When you’re learning a language, you also learn about its customs, culture, history, and it’s very interesting,” she says.
Chinese Bridge is organised and sponsored by the Confucius Institute, in conjunction with China’s local governments.
Only students who are born outside of China, and for whom Chinese Mandarin is not their first language, can apply to participate.
There were seven Oceania teams competing, one from NZ, four from Australia, and one each from Vanuatu and Fiji.