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Cover Stories Series 2014> Confucius Institutes:A Decade of Culture> Archives
UPDATED: September 9, 2014 NO. 37 SEPTEMBER 11, 2014
Foreign and Fluent
Students from around the world gather annually in China for feted language proficiency competition
By Denis Green

CHINESE TALENT: Monica Cunha da Silva (left), Rebecca Morrison (third left), Anesu Mhembere (third right) and other finalists showcase their calligraphy during the Chinese Bridge competition on August 3 in Changsha (BAI YU)

The Chinese language has a reputation around the world for being one of the most difficult to master. Complex tones and tens of thousands of pictorial characters are enough to make many a university student look elsewhere when choosing a second language to learn. However, in recent years, Mandarin Chinese has become more popular among budding students, who believe conquering the language native to the most populated country on Earth is the ticket to a successful career.

On August 3, students from all over the world took part in the final of the 13th Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students in Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan Province. The Chinese Bridge (hanyu qiao) is an annual event organized by Hanban, a non-profit organization that serves as the headquarters of Confucius Institutes worldwide.

Since its launch in 2002, more than 800 students from over 80 countries have participated in this annual competition. It is a platform for university students around the world to showcase their talents in Chinese arts and their competency in the Chinese language.

This year's competition officially started in early July, with 126 competitors from 87 countries arriving in China to complete a series of preliminary screenings that ranked ability in the Chinese language, historical knowledge and other talents. Candidates also traveled to Xi'an, the site of the burial chamber of China's first emperor and his terra cotta warriors, the famous porcelain capital of Jingdezhen in Jiangxi Province, and Anhua in Hunan Province to learn about tea culture. Hunan TV aired their contests from July 22 to August 26.

Power of language

The competition piques the interest of more and more university students each year. One of the central reasons students are so eager to progress through the national preliminary rounds is to have the chance to come and explore China in person and learn about its people and culture.

"The competition has been really tiring, but I've made so many friends, my Chinese has improved, and I've tried lots of different foods and met a lot of people," said Rebecca Morrison, who studies Chinese and law in Brisbane, Australia. "After I finish university in Australia, I want to come back to China to study international relations."

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