by Li Huizi
WELLINGTON, June 2 (Xinhua) -- Whether you admit it or not, Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to learn on earth. One may feel surprised to see non-native speakers speak Chinese eloquently. The Chinese Bridge (Chinese Proficiency Competition) provides a chance to admire those young linguists.
On the stage of the Chinese Bridge Competition New Zealand South Island Finals held in Christchurch late last month, more than 20 local middle school and university students gathered to show their language talents and skills, and staged a wonderful performance of Chinese pop songs, fan dance, paper cutting and martial arts.
Paula Rodriguez Lopez from Christchurch-based Rewi Alley Chinese School said in her competition speech in Chinese that the most frequent Chinese phrases she has used was "I'm sorry, but I didn't understand. Please say it again."
Judges were amused by her words during the competition. She told a story of her Chinese learning, saying "My Chinese friends are very friendly and they can't wait to communicate with me in Chinese, but my Chinese is not so good at the moment."
Robert Pugh, a linguistic undergraduate at the University of Canterbury, discussed the concept of "home" in his Chinese speech. Pugh found in most Asian languages, people tend to call each other "brother," "sister," "uncle" or "aunt" though they had no any blood relationship. After interviewing many people, he concluded that the broad sense of home is where you feel supported and loved by anyone such as your friends.
As a seasoned contestant, Pugh represented New Zealand middle school students to take part in the Chinese Bridge Competition's global finals in Beijing in 2017. Before going to university, he attended a short-time study of Chinese language and culture in Wuhan's Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China's Hubei province.
"The Chinese learning opens the door of a new culture for me, which broadens my vision and helps me gain friendship," Pugh told Xinhua.
Connor Page presented a martial arts performance during the competition. Clad in black suits, the 12-year-old won applause for his sharp and powerful moves.
Page said his favorite city is Shanghai and he hoped he could live and study in China just as his elder brother Cameron Page did, who was the champion of the Chinese Bridge South Island Finals in 2018. Cameron studied in Shanghai through a Confucius Institute scholarship this year.
Tracey Page, the two brothers' mother, said her children showed great interest in the Chinese culture and she has supported them in learning Chinese from a very young age. She believes that young people learning Chinese would help promote the China-New Zealand relations.
Jack Barton from Christchurch Boys' High School performed paper cutting on the competition stage. He cut the Chinese character "Spring" from a piece of paper in a few minutes. Barton said he wanted to become an engineer and live and work in China. He hoped he could help the two nations communicate well with each other and show New Zealand the glamour of China.
Divyana Balakrishnan from the Middleton Grange School was enthralled by traditional Chinese music and dance. She performed the dance "Dream of Dunhuang" during the competition. Balakrishnan said her dance was inspired by the images on the Dunhuang Frescoes. She said she longed for visiting historical sites in China.
British-born Madi Christian from St Margaret's College grew up in China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Christian said she would like to go back to China to live and work. "Young New Zealanders should learn other country's history and culture," she said.
Her mother Cherie Christian told Xinhua learning Chinese helped her daughter become more confident, and that bilingualism is of great benefit to her development.
Alistair Crozier, director of the Office of the Mayor in Christchurch, said he was surprised to see the high level of Chinese proficiency of young New Zealanders.
As a career diplomat who served as New Zealand's first Consul-General to Chengdu, covering Southwest China, Crozier said Chinese language education played a significant role in the New Zealand-China relations, as China is New Zealand's important partner.
"If there are more young New Zealanders learning Chinese, they will become a key factor to strengthen bilateral ties," he said.
Chinese language teacher Fu Jiwei said many parents and students in New Zealand realized the importance of Chinese learning with increasingly close ties between the two countries.
New Zealand is a multicultural country, and the government encourages schools to open second language courses so that students could learn other cultures through language learning, Fu said.
Between 2016 and 2017, Chinese has become the most popular foreign language in New Zealand, with more than 70,000 primary and middle school learners, she added.