Around 200 guests, students and parents lent moral support as contestants gathered at UCT for the South African preliminary round of the 13th Chinese Bridge, a Chinese language proficiency competition for foreign college students. Up for grabs were spots in the July finals in Changsha in the Hunan province, where the winners will go up against counterparts from across the globe.
In the round on 10 May, around 20 students '“ all doing Mandarin through Confucius Institutes in South Africa '“ showcased their fluency to a panel of judges with a series of short presentations. UCT student Luyolo Sijake upped the ante, also performing a Chinese pop song as part of his presentation.
The ditty earned Sijake a place in the finals in July, alongside repeat-finalist Monique van Tonder of Stellenbosch University. Sijake is the first UCT student to qualify for China from the South African round, dominated by Stellenbosch students over the past years. The pair will join around 100 other students from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas and Oceania in Changsha.
Sijake's performance highlights the quick headway that's been made at UCT, where a Confucius Institute was formally established in 2010 and the first Mandarin courses offered in 2011. Enrolment numbers are stabilising, the institute is hoping to launch a first major in Mandarin soon, and the students are beginning to hit their stride, reports Professor Wu Qianlong, deputy director and Chinese director of the Confucius Institute.
"Our students are getting better and better," Wu says. "They've made rapid progress in just over three years, despite the fact that we still don't offer third-year and honours courses at the moment."
And he's confident that Sijake will be even more polished by the time the finals come around.
Among the guests at the UCT event was Chinese Consul General Liang Shugen, who co-hosted the competition.
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