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Sesotho, English, Sepedi, Setswana, Afrikaans and French. Add Chinese to that and you have a full mouth of languages spoken by Stellenbosch University student Masego Mothei. The Matie student proved she is a whiz at languages recently winning the 16th Chinese Bridge Competition for Foreign College Students. The event, held at Stellenbosch University on 3 June saw twenty participants from six South African universities demonstrating their Chinese language and cultural skills.
The Chinese Bridge Competition is an annual event aimed at promoting intercultural exchanges. Participants are tested on Chinese language proficiency, knowledge of China, Chinese cultural skills and a comprehensive learning ability. Masego shared her first prize with Noxolo Ndara from the University of Johannesburg, both of them qualifying for the semi-final round of the competition in China later this year.
Masego's win marked the eight time that a student from Stellenbosch University has won the Chinese Bridge Competition. The third year BA Languages and Culture student says her win has boosted her confidence in her academic ambitions and future aspirations. She plans on majoring in Chinese Studies and Applied English Language Studies.
Masego’s says her appreciation for the Chinese language began when she started researching the culture. What mesmerized about China she says is the food, the values and principles the Chinese culture holds and the uniqueness of the country. “I am fascinated by it and how different it is to South African culture.”
Her mother tongue is Sesotho and she is fluent in English and speak Sepedi, Setswana, Afrikaans and French. What she enjoys most about learning Chinese is how surprised and happy Chinese people are when she speaks the language. Recently, Masego recalls, “I was walking down the Rooiplein on campus when I came across a group of Chinese tourists. I greeted them and asked them where in China they are from and what their travel itinerary is, speaking Chinese. They were so surprised and asked me where I had learnt Chinese and asked many other questions. I walked away from that conversation feeling grateful that I could use this language to reach out to a people group with whom I would have never ordinarily interacted with”.
As part of the competition, she performed a three-minute speech on the topic “Dreams enlighten the future” and a talent show. For the talent show, she performed a comedy skit. Masego acknowledges that, “I can’t sing or dance so my Chinese teacher thought that comedy was the best option”.
In her own words she remembers preparing for the competition. “I was nervous at first. I had barely slept. I slept at 2am studying for the written test; there was so much information to memorise. During the speech and talent show I was calm and tried to encourage other participants who felt uneasy. I honestly can’t believe that I won. The competition was fierce and I was experiencing fatigue. I attest the win to God’s grace and also to the amazing teachers at the Confucius Institute of Stellenbosch University. They were with me every step of the way.”
Masego added, “I was really happy and amazed. The Mandarin section at the Department of Modern Foreign Languages at the University is simply the best in the country. The fact that Stellenbosch University has been the winner of the last seven Chinese Bridge competitions prior to my victory attests to this”.
Her advice to other students considering cultural exchanges like the Chinese bridge competition. “Never underestimate the power of hard work. People notice when you are passionate and put in a lot of effort into what you do. Having a positive attitude will benefit you greatly in learning a new language.”