Hot stuff! as local girl takes Mandarin language contest’s top prize

Mahi received her first prize award from Li Zhigong, the Consul General of the People’s Republic of China. | Supplied

Mahi received her first prize award from Li Zhigong, the Consul General of the People’s Republic of China. | Supplied

Published Jun 17, 2024


Durban — Learning a new language is difficult, especially when that language is Mandarin, regarded as one of the hardest languages to learn in the world.

In spite of being acquainted with the language for just five months, 7-year-old Mahi Roopchund from Durban North was good enough to win the local segment of the internationally contested Chinese Bridge Competition last week.

The Chinese proficiency contest was staged at The Capital Pearls Hotel, uMhlanga, and Mahi’s win qualified her for the competition’s Beijing final, to be held in October.

Mahi, a Glen Ashley Junior Primary School Grade 2 pupil, impressed the judges with the speech she delivered and her rendition of a famous Mandarin song.

Her mom, Cheena Roopchund, who described Mahi as “outgoing and bubbly”, said she started learning Mandarin through the influence of her aunt, Vivian Zeng. Zeng, who works for the Confucius Institute, got Mahi to learn Mandarin at the end of January and encouraged Mahi’s entry into the June 7 competition in uMhlanga because she was impressed by the child’s Mandarin proficiency.

It was the Durban University of Technology that introduced Zeng to the competition, as the institute also hosted the competition in Durban this year.

“We are confident that she will be writing Mandarin by the end of June. She just loves learning new languages ‒ Mandarin, Hindi and Zulu. But her favourite part is learning Chinese songs and poems,” said Roopchund.

MAHI along with her parents Cheena and Niren Roopchund. | Supplied

For Mahi to qualify for the trip to the fourth Primary School Students Chinese Bridge Competition in China later this year, she first competed against 11 other hopefuls, all aged between 6 to 12, from all over South Africa.

She was the youngest contestant and faced tough competition from pupils attending Somerset College, a Western Cape school where Mandarin is offered as a subject.

With her family offering encouragement from the sidelines, Mahi prevailed in uMhlanga and looks forward to the next level of the competition.

“My husband and I, her grandfather, uncle and aunt, who tutored her, were all there to support. We were so proud of her. She was not nervous going on stage by herself, which she did very confidently. She was slightly nervous at the beginning, but as the competition went on, her nerves settled.”

Roopchund said the two aspects of the competition were a three-minute speech and a five-minute talent show act.

Li Zhigong, Consul-General of the People’s Republic of China in Durban, presented her winning prize.

Roopchund said it was a great honour for a child to receive the top award.

“I am extremely proud of my daughter. She is such a loving and caring child, and very smart to be able to learn a new language. She even loves to teach her younger twin brothers and cousins the Mandarin language. Hopefully, they will also follow in her footsteps. The sky’s the limit for her,” said the proud parent.

Niren Roopchund, Mahi’s dad, said this award and her success was his early Father’s Day gift.

“As a father, witnessing my daughter achieve an outstanding award was the greatest early Father’s Day gift I could have asked for. Her dedication to studying Mandarin so passionately fills me with pride beyond words. Watching her on that stage, showcasing her talents and hard work, brought tears to my eyes. Seeing her grow up to be so well-rounded fills me with joy and gratitude.

“I’ve even tried to bond with her by learning the language alongside her, stumbling through the characters and tones with her patient guidance. I hope in her future she continues to chase her dreams with the same fervour and determination, knowing that I will always be here to support and love her every step of the way,” said the emotional dad.

Sunday Tribune