Feature: Chinese Bridge language contest attracts enthusiastic Egyptian teenagers

by Marwa Yahya

CAIRO, May 31 (Xinhua) -- "The Chinese Bridge contest was a challenge for me to defy my fears and learn one of the most difficult languages in the world," said Malak Ihab, an 18-year-old high school student who won on Tuesday the second place in the Chinese language contest for secondary school students in Egypt.

The teenage girl, along with nine others, took part in the 15th Chinese Bridge language contest, which was held at the Confucius Institute at Cairo University under the auspices of the Chinese embassy in Cairo.

"I plan to finish the advanced levels of the language course and find good job opportunities in the future," said Ihab, who is currently studying at the Egyptian Chinese Friendship School.

"I love the Chinese history because it reminds me of the ancient Egyptian heritage," Ihab said.

Nashwa Fahmy, the top prize winner in the competition and also an avid reader, said "the Chinese language and culture give me the freedom to fly with my thoughts and paint a colorful picture of my life."

She wished that the language could be learned by more people, and not just limited to schools and universities.

During the contest, Fahmy staged an amazing performance by telling a story, playing a Chinese traditional instrument, and performing a Chinese folk dance.

"I learned that difficult beginnings will end with happy accomplishments," she said proudly while holding her big golden trophy.

Mervat Mohamed, director of the Egyptian Chinese Friendship School, said "I'm very proud of my students who won very good prizes in the contest."

Cultural activities like this give the students the confidence and resilience to continue learning a difficult language like the Chinese, she said.

"China is very advanced at the scientific and technological level, and the strengthening cultural exchange between Egypt and China encourages students to learn the language," the Chinese language instructor said.

Meanwhile, Wang Shenggang, minister counselor of education at the Chinese embassy in Egypt, said "the contest has become a bridge linking the two countries and promotes understanding among the people and contributes positively to enhancing China-Egypt friendship."

There are four Confucius Institutes in Egypt and over 20 universities offer Chinese majors, the Chinese diplomat said, adding that he wished the students could have the opportunities to study and work in China.

Gamal Al-Shazly, vice president for students affairs at Cairo University, stressed that "cultural cooperation plays a very important role in the friendly ties between Egypt and China."

The language contests that have run in colleges and secondary schools are a chance for "cultural exchange between our students and the Chinese people," he said.

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