Years of learning Mandarin pay off for varsity student

Linguistic triumph: (From left) Muhamad Shahmeer with his grandmother Chin Wan Mee, mother Selina Lee Abdullah and aunt Lee Saw Leng after placing second in the competition. — Photo courtesy of Aziz How Abdullah, Malaysian Embassy

BEIJING: Malaysian student Muha­mad Shahmeer Mohd Nash­rul’s years of studies in a Chinese school paid off when he shone on the global stage here, thanks to his fluent Mandarin.

The accounting undergraduate of Universiti Teknologi Mara came in second among more than 100 students in the 16th Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students, the biggest of such contests worldwide.

He also won the Excellent Elo­quence award in the competition held in Changsha, China’s Hunan province, on Saturday.

The 22-year-old from Penang returned with a trophy and a scholarship to study in China. He was only seven points behind the winner, a student from Sudan.

“I am very happy. Thank you to my mother for insisting that I go to a Chinese school,” said Muhamad Shahmeer, who is of Malay and Chinese parentage, in a telephone interview yesterday.

The annual competition is organised by the Confucius Institute Headquarters to promote the development of Chinese education overseas and enhance students’ understanding of the language.

Participants have to win the preliminary rounds in their respective countries before they can move on to the semi-final and final rounds in China, where they compete against each other over their language skills and general knowledge.

Shahmeer, who is a part-time singer, also plans to expand his singing career to China.

Another Malaysian, Fahmi Muha­mad Rasyid from Universiti Malaya Pahang, was among 145 participants from 112 countries to make it to the semi-final.

Muhamad Shahmeer, who also speaks Hokkien and Cantonese, completed his primary education at SJK (C) Li Tek B and continued studying Chinese at SMJK Heng Ee.

He moved to St Xavier’s Institution in Form Four because he wanted to take up Islamic studies.

“But I did not give up on Chinese. I love the language because it is so unique, broad and profound. If I mispronounce a word, it takes on another meaning,” he said.

He also thanked his primary school teacher Seen Mor Lian, who taught him Chinese for six years.

Muhamad Shahmeer encouraged those who wished to pick up any language to learn it fast.

“It is always better to know more, be it language or other knowledge. You never know where you will end up in the future. The more you know, the more opportunities lie ahead of you,” he said.

Malaysian Ambassador to China Datuk Zainuddin Yahya congratulated Shahmeer on his success.

“He has made all Malaysians proud and I hope his achievements will inspire others to take up Mandarin,” he said.

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