Learning Mandarin Chinese has not only taken a Computing student to the final stages of a foreign language speaking competition, it has also brought her romance.
Lithuanian-born Egle Sciglinskaite grew up in Surrey with English as her main language but on Saturday will have to sing in Mandarin as part of her bid to win a prestigious contest in London.
Egle, right, picks up tips from one of the team at the Confucius Institute
In her first year of studying for her Computing degree at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), she signed up also for lessons in Mandarin at its Confucius Institute.
And the language classes have paid off in an unexpected way, with Egle falling for one of the Chinese friends she has made, her boyfriend Xinzhe Hu, known as Louis.
“We met in a Chinese restaurant in Leicester when I was having a meal with a friend and we’ve been together now for eight or nine months," explained the 22-year-old.
“When I’ve done my Master’s I’m planning to move to China, to his home town Nanjing, to continue studying Chinese.
“I usually only speak Lithuanian with my Mum and Dad but now I speak Chinese all the time with all my friends, and with Louis’ family.”
Egle is no stranger to international travel, having moved with her Lithuanian parents from the Baltic state to Surrey when she was a child, and having spent nearly a month at a Chinese language and cultural summer school in Beijing in 2015.
She was the first DMU student to attend the summer school held at the University of Science and Technology in Beijing, thanks to a Confucius Institute scholarship and a £400 bursary from the #DMUglobal programme.
On Saturday, however, her mettle in Mandarin will be tested when she competes against representatives from other Confucius Institutes from across the UK in the Chinese Bridge competition run by the education section of the Chinese Embassy.
In the semi-finals in the afternoon at Imperial College London, she will need to do a three-minute speech in Mandarin (in which she will mention her romantic path to Nanjing), perform a song in the language, and answer five questions on Chinese culture and general knowledge.
If she wins through to the final that evening, she will have to go through the tests again, this time on the stage at the Ondaatje Theatre at the Royal Geographical Society.
As well as cash prizes, the top two overall winners will be invited to China to represent the UK in the semi-finals of the world-wide competition.
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One person who has no doubt Egle will perform well is Junping He, a Mandarin teacher at the Confucius Institute at DMU.
She said: “Egle has become very Chinese herself – the way she talks, her mannerisms, the way she thinks and her social life.
“She’s one of the best Mandarin students that we’ve had. Chinese is not an easy language to learn but Egle has kept on learning.
“Learning Chinese is like opening another window.”
Posted on Friday 21st April 2017