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Mandarin helps Brazilian girl broaden horizons, experience

By Bruna Gama (Xinhua)    14:18, April 02, 2015
Monica Cunha da Silva from Brazil, the winner of the 13th Chinese Bridge -- Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students, performs on stage along with her fellow competitors. [Photo provided to China.org.cn]

RIO DE JANEIRO, April 1  -- Monica Cunha da Silva's relation with China and the Chinese language started when she was just a baby and first moved from Brazil, her home country, to Macao.

Over time, this relation has blossomed and, last year, Monica won the 13th Chinese Bridge tournament, a competition in which people from all over the world show their proficiency with Mandarin. She was the first Brazilian to ever achieve such feat.

Despite having won a language competition, Monica said she is not really an enthusiast of languages. She did not choose to study Mandarin and English, but she had to because she was living in countries where those languages were spoken.

"I do not have a lot of talent for language learning, but I do not find it difficult, either," she said.

When Monica was only one year old, her family moved to Macao for work, and stayed there for four years. In this period, she spoke Cantonese and Portuguese, for Macao was a former Portuguese colony.

When she was five, her family moved to Guangzhou for another year, where Monica quickly learned Mandarin.

But then they moved back to Brazil, and her knowledge of both Mandarin and Cantonese was lost.

"Children learn languages very quickly, but they also forget very quickly," Monica told Xinhua.

Years later, her parents returned to China for work reasons and Monica had the chance to start learning Mandarin again. She lived in China from 2007 to 2012, attending school in the country for five years, and received all her instruction in Mandarin.

She regrets knowing no people to talk to in Mandarin in the city she lives now, Vitoria, in Espirito Santo state, southeastern Brazil.

"The university opened a Mandarin class, but my Mandarin is more advanced than the class," she said.

Yet, the lack of conversation practice did not stop her from entering the Chinese Bridge competition in 2013. She ranked second in the Brazil competition, and was invited to watch the finals in China, where she got to practice Mandarin and make new friends.

She entered the competition for a second time in 2014, winning the local tournament and again going to China for the finals. This time she was not watching, but performing, and felt the pressure of being on stage.

"When I was nervous, my mind sometimes went blank, and there I had to participate in a play and memorize several poems, so I was dead afraid of forgetting everything," she said.

Monica won a scholarship to study in China for a year, starting in September, and is currently planning the trip. She studies Civil Engineering and believes it would be good to learn the specific vocabulary which would allow her to use her knowledge of Mandarin in her chosen profession.

"I am thinking about going for a year and then returning here to graduate. I do not plan for a long-time stay in China for now; I want to stay in Brazil and use this advantage here," she said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Huang Jin,Yao Chun)

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