Over the weekend, hundreds of university students gathered at the University of Rwanda’s College of Education (formerly Kigali Institute of Education) for the Rwanda finals of the Chinese Bridge Competition, a Chinese language proficiency competition.
The annual Chinese Bridge Competition gives an opportunity to college students to display their Chinese Mandarin language skills in form of a prepared speech, a cultural question-and-answer session, as well as a cultural performance of their chosen skill.
This year saw around 700 students come together to compete in the Rwanda semi-finals of the Chinese Bridge Competition; of these semifinalists the top nine contestants went through to the Rwanda finals.
The diversity of performances and level of language proficiency skills were exceptional, with performances ranging from traditional Chinese fan dances to self-composed musical pieces. All the contestants brought their own style and flair to the competition.
After months of hard work and preparation under the guidance of an assigned university Confucius Institute teacher, the students presented themselves in front of a panel of judges.
All of the finalists demonstrated a high level of understanding Chinese Mandarin, extensive knowledge of Chinese culture and history, as well as exhibited their creativity in their use and knowledge of the language.
In the end, only the top two were selected and awarded with trophies as well as a trip to China to participate in the international competition, which is expected to take place in summer, either in July or August.
Charles Ntakiyimana emerged the overall winner while Irene Musengamana was the first runner-up, and both of them will get sponsored trips to China, organisers said.
Ntakiyimana will officially represent Rwanda at the final stage, while the latter will only get a sponsored tour to China.
“To learn Chinese requires you a lot of efforts and this is why I cried when they announced me as the winner. But Chinese is my favourite language and this is why I have been learning it for the past two years,” Ntakiyimana told The New Times.
The top winner is a third year Engineering student at University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology. He dedicated the award to the Confucius Institute teachers who facilitated him throughout the process.
He will join hundreds of other representatives from over 140 countries across the world in the global competition.
This year, the Chinese Embassy in Rwanda partnered with the College of Education’s Confucius Institute to host the 17th edition of the competition. Rao Hongwei, the Chinese ambassador to Rwanda, said the competition has become an ideal platform for lovers of Chinese language.
“The Chinese Bridge competition has become an annual gathering for lovers of Chinese language worldwide. On this platform, a large number of talented contestants have emerged,” he told the participants on Sunday.
Hongwei highlighted that there had been a growing enthusiasm for learning Chinese in Rwanda. For instance, the Confucius Institute in Rwanda has expanded Chinese teaching posts to 10 this year and has attracted more than 4,200 registered students.
Charles Murigande, deputy vice chancellor at the University of Rwanda, told the students that it was important to learn Chinese language as it would unlock more opportunities in the near future.