A marvel at Mandarin
When you open the fridge at Kathryn Robinson’s house you won’t find classic Kiwi fare.
You’ll find silken tofu, fresh noodles and jars with not a word of English on them.
And it is all thanks to the 11-year-old’s obsession with everything Chinese.
Her flair for Mandarin was noticed at the Morning Star Bilingual Preschool in Epsom, and her mother Michelle Blaxall decided it was worth pursuing with. Kathryn has just won the National Chinese Bridge Speech Competition hosted by the Confucius Institute.
The year 7 Diocesan pupil competed against students up to year 10 and is the youngest to win the title.
The youngster says her speech on her favourite subject, Chinese cuisine, even made the judges hungry.
Kathryn says she gets an interesting reaction whenever she speaks Mandarin.
‘‘I really do like surprising people, like I was at Chinatown the other day and I said something in Mandarin and they were like ‘wow’.’’
Her passion for food was inspired by her language tutor Bee Keow Lim, who noticed she needed something to revitalise her interest in the difficult subject.
‘‘I was thinking cooking would make the lesson more interesting and she needed something interesting to make her learn in a fun way,’’ Keow Lim says.
So once a week Kathryn has a Chinese cooking lesson which doubles as a Mandarin lesson.
‘‘Along with Mandarin a lot of Chinese customs and culture have been integrated in with the cooking,’’ Keow Lim says.
‘‘After cooking we eat the result but Kathryn knows that you can’t eat straight away, you have to let the elders go first and you have to eat quietly.’’
Kathryn’s mother says the family is only too happy to enjoy the spoils of her daughter’s hard work.
‘‘On both sides of the family going back generations we have spoken just one language.’’
Diocesan Chinese language teacher Elsa Holliday says Kathryn is one of the most advanced nonnative Chinese students in her year level.
‘‘If you close your eyes you would think she is a regular Chinese girl,’’ she says.