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December 13, 2016
Katya in Top 30 at Worldwide Mandarin Competition
Katya Pollock in Grade 12 can call herself one of the top 30 Mandarin speakers in the world. This is after her recent success at the Chinese Bridge Competition in Beijing, China.

In order to qualify, she participated in the Toronto Regional Competition, also called Chinese Bridge (Hanyu Qiao), where she came in first place.

“I was thrilled to win the Toronto regional,” said Katya. “At the time, I didn’t know it meant I would be travelling to China. Just to participate in a Mandarin competition was really cool because, although I’ve been studying Mandarin for a while, it’s mostly been just something I do in my free time as a hobby. This was my first time competing in anything Mandarin-related, so I had no idea what to expect or how I would do.”

Winning in the Toronto regionals allowed her to attend the Chinese Bridge Competition in Beijing, an opportunity Katya describes as “incredible.” She attended alongside the two other regional winners from Edmonton and Montreal.

“We spent three days in Beijing, then travelled to Kunming where we spent two weeks competing and sightseeing with the other 190 contestants. I made close friends with competitors from as far away as Belarus, Colombia, and Germany and as close as Montreal and Edmonton. I’ve never met as diverse a group of people before, all with such an inspiring passion for Mandarin.”

The competition required participants to compete with a partner; Katya being paired up with a male student from Edmonton.

“I met my partner on the second day of the competition, but we very quickly became close friends. We worked well together because of our different skills; he was a great performer whereas I was more confident in speaking in improvised conversations or interviews. The competition was as much about teamwork as it was about Mandarin fluency, so the match really contributed to our success and made the process a lot of fun.”

Katya and her partner placed in the top 30 out of 91 teams, an accomplishment they are both very proud of.

“Our score was calculated through a written test, a speech, a talent performance and an impromptu skit,” said Katya. “We were each awarded a six-month scholarship to study in a Chinese university of our choice.”

Branksome Hall Mandarin teacher Coral Shan Chen enjoyed helping Katya to prepare and attended the competition with her.

“It was a pleasure working with Katya,” said Ms Chen.

“We couldn’t have done as well as we did without our teachers and coaches, Ms Chen from Branksome and, Ms Li, from my partner’s school in Edmonton. They helped us challenge ourselves to learn as much as possible while having fun at the same time,” said Katya.

Why does Katya love studying Mandarin so much? She explains that it’s because the language is so different from other languages, and while it can be more challenging, the rewards are much greater.

“Just making an effort to speak in Mandarin has introduced me to so many interesting people at Branksome and in my daily life,” said Katya. “While I make mistakes all the time (last week I confused the words “make friends” - 相交 and “banana” - 香蕉 while talking to a reporter,) I’ve always been met with genuine, heart-warming encouragement from native speakers. That kind of response makes me excited to keep learning as much as possible about the language.”

In the future, Katya is planning on studying Mandarin at university in combination with Economics or Public Policy, both interests she’s discovered at Branksome.

“I’m considering taking a gap year next year to study at a Chinese university with my scholarship from Chinese Bridge,” said Katya. “Studying for a year in China would immerse me completely in the culture and language and could be a great stepping stone to potentially working in China when I’m older.”

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