QUITO, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Young Ecuadorian Lizbeth Astudillo is in love with Mandarin. She admitted the road to fluency was at times bumpy, but her passion for the language kept her going.
Astudillo, 19, told Xinhua that "despite the suffering," falling in love with Mandarin was a "magical" experience.
"I feel that from the moment I began to write the word 'ni hao' ('hello' in Mandarin), I fell in love (with the language), and said 'I'm going to keep going,'" she added.
Her diligence has yielded fruits. Earlier this month, she won the final of this year's Chinese Bridge language proficiency contest for college level students in Ecuador.
In conjunction with her language studies, she is studying economics, with an eye to working in international trade or some other field that will take her regularly to China, a country she has already visited twice.
"I would like to work at a company that imports products or exports Ecuadorian goods, but that has to do with China. That is my goal," she said, adding that she would like to work with Chinese people, introduce to them "a bit of my culture" and "bring a bit of their culture to Ecuador."
Her love of the Chinese language and culture dates back to her childhood, said Astudillo, who recalled watching Chinese cartoons when she was nine.
Her father, a businessman with trade ties to China, reinforced her interest, as her parents traveled regularly to the Asian country on business. The first time Astudillo visited China was in 2014, when she accompanied her parents to a fair.
However, it wasn't until 2016 that she began to study the language seriously at a Confucius Institute branch in the southern city of Cuenca, where she hails from.
Learning Mandarin can be quite challenging. "It's always tough to get anything started, until you pick up the rhythm," she said, adding that there were days when she cried as she realized how difficult it was to learn Chinese.
But that did not prevent her from realizing "how wonderful and magical this language is," she said.
After passing the written Chinese proficiency test, she won a one-year scholarship to study at the China University of Petroleum, where she enrolled in 2017, in Beijing.
It was "a very pleasant experience, full of learning, and good and bad times. In China everything is difficult until you get used to the food, the language, the time change, but over time you get used to it and you become part of that society," she said.
She later continued her language studies at the Confucius Institute in Quito, becoming fluent enough to help her father import Chinese vehicles to Ecuador.
"My parents are very proud, because they invested in me by paying for the classes and they are quite happy with the results," she said.
Astudillo will soon put her knowledge to the test against Chinese language students from around the globe at this year's world Chinese Bridge contest in China.
Since 2002, Beijing-based Confucius Institute Headquarters has organized a series of "Chinese Bridge" language competitions.
"My objective in going isn't to compete or win, it's to learn, to make friends ... (and to) see how capable I am and how far I can get," said Astudillo.