UCS pupil Cosmo stars at Mandarin speaking contest

The gift of languages is a wonderful thing and when aligned with the spirit of youthful endeavour and the pursuit of excellence it can open up a world of possibility. This is what UCS Year 10 pupil Cosmo discovered when his passion for the Mandarin language prompted him to enter the 2023 Chinese Bridge Mandarin Speaking Competition for UK secondary school students.

Cosmo impressed sufficiently in the preliminary stage of the competition – a Zoom conference where he had to give a presentation and answer questions from a panel of judges – to qualify for the national final held at SOAS University of London on Friday 5th May. The final took place in the morning and was broken up into three parts, the first being a two-minute presentation delivered in Mandarin.

“I had to memorise and perform a speech about my family in front of an audience and five judges,” Cosmo explained. “After I had finished my presentation, the judges asked me a series of questions in Mandarin regarding my chosen topic. Then I also had to translate several questions from English to Mandarin.”

It was a platform for his linguistic talents to shine and when the judges’ verdict came later in the day, Cosmo learned that he had won third place overall in the country. “The highlights,” he said, “were having the opportunity to take part in a national competition with other committed Mandarin speakers, to converse with native Mandarin speakers, and, of course, to hear that I had achieved a great result.”

Cosmo attributes his ‘ear’ for languages to a musical background. “I play several musical instruments which helps with my understanding of the various tones in Mandarin, which can be tricky. I also have a good memory for things that I am interested in.”

Well, this Remove year pupil certainly has a fascination for Asian languages and culture, having taught himself basic Japanese and Korean before grabbing the chance to study Mandarin at UCS, a school that offers five Modern Languages and two Classical ones. “I chose to study Mandarin at the first opportunity,” he enthused. “I was inspired by the sound of the language and the chance to learn a language with characters that are completely different from the English alphabet. I also really like the culture, the people and the food.”

Armed with a bronze medal to celebrate his youthful prowess, Cosmo now aims to take his linguistic ability to the next level. “I am passionate about Mandarin,” he said. “I love the language and I have already decided I would like to continue with my studies through to A Level and hopefully university. Mandarin is a subject I look forward to every week. It may be seen as challenging, but language learning is fun.”

The Chinese Bridge Mandarin Speaking Competition is organised by the Centre for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC) UK and supported by the British Council.

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