Brazilian student masters Chinese

Updated: 2015-04-06 03:55

By JI YE in Rio de Janeiro(China Daily Latin America)

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Brazilian student masters Chinese

Brazilian student Shi Moli performs a dance wearing a traditional Chinese costume at the finals of the 13th "Chinese Bridge" Competition last August in Changsha, China. [Provided to China Daily]

Last August, Brazilian student Shi Moli won the All-Round Championship of the 13th "Chinese Bridge" Competition, an "all things" Chinese proficiency contest for foreign students.

Nearly half a year later, the 19 year old's memory of the victory is still fresh.

"It's really unbelievable to win the top place," said Shi in an authentic Chinese accent. "The goal I set for myself was to just make it into the top 15. Besides, I thought a lot of the contestants spoke better Chinese than I did."

The "Chinese Bridge" Competition, inaugurated in 2002, has attracted more than 300,000 university students from around the world over the years since its inception. It tests the contestants' Chinese language abilities, as well as their knowledge of China's current affairs and skills in Chinese arts. It has become an important international platform to encourage university students to learn Chinese and understand China.

Last year's edition started in March, with preliminary competitions held in six regions globally. A total of 126 outstanding college students from 87 countries and regions assembled in China in July and August to compete in the semi-finals and finals. Brazilian student Shi Moli, representing South America, eventually won the All-round Championship.

Born in Brazil's southeastern city of Belo Horizonte in 1996, Shi Moli (or Monica Cunha da Silva by her Brazilian name) has had a link with China since she was one year old and her parents were sent by their employers to work in China.

When she was five years old, Shi returned to China with her family. At that time, Shi spoke only a little Chinese. "When I was a child, I could learn Chinese quicker, but forget quicker, too," she said.

Shi didn't learn Chinese systematically until 2007, when she went to China with her parents again and began to study in a normal preliminary school in the city of Kunming. Three years later, she was transferred to an international school to strengthen her English.

"The main ways for me to learn Chinese were to teach myself, talk with local people and practice my Chinese expressions frequently. Sometimes I also watched Chinese TV series," Shi said.

Along with the Chinese language, Shi also fell in love with the city of Kunming, its climate and delicious local foods like rice noodles and hot pot, which Shi still yearns for.

After a five-year stay in Kunming, Shi went back to Brazil in 2012 to continue her studies. Her love of and interest in the Chinese language never diminished.

In 2013 after enrolling in a university in Brazil's Victoria, Shi heard about the worldwide Chinese language contest "Chinese Bridge" and registered for it without hesitation. To her surprise, Shi made runner-up in Brazil and got to go to China to watch the finals.

A year later, with more experience, Shi entered the competition again and this time went to China's finals as the winner of Brazil. The powerhouse of energy eventually stood out from a total 126 outstanding college students from 87 countries. The judges — convinced by her stable performance and authentic Chinese accent — said if they had just been listening to her without seeing her, it would have been impossible to tell if she was Chinese or a foreigner.

Shi said that the biggest challenge during last year's competition was the poetry. "My memory capability is not good enough and I’m afraid of reciting, especially the ancient Chinese poems," she said. Thanks to hard work in preparing, Shi got through them smoothly.

Shi had another advantage by being a good dancer. Wearing a traditional Chinese costume, she performed a beautiful dance that, along with her fluency in Chinese, made her a star of the competition.

Shi doesn't think Chinese is as difficult as some people say. "As long as you keep focused, half a year will be enough to learn it," she believes.

As economic ties between China and Brazil deepen, more Brazilians like Shi are becoming interested in Chinese culture and language.

Brazilians used to study Chinese mainly out of curiosity, but now as relations between Brazil and China have become more and more significant in recent years, more and more Brazilians — diplomats, businessmen and university students — want to learn Mandarin to work with China.