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Beijing Accents at Home in Britain
You would never believe such a strong Beijing accent could belong to a fair-haired, blue-eyed British girl unless you saw her speak. But University of Edinburgh student Amanda Pateman is one of many "showing off" their talent and enthusiasm for the Chinese language abroad.

A Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students was held at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London over the weekend.

After winning the heats at their universities, nine British students competed in the event, organized by the Education Section of the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom, the SOAS and the British Chinese Language Teaching Seminar.

Heather Inwood, a student from Cambridge University, won first prize. She, together with the second prize winner, John Burton from University of Leeds, will take part in a final to be held in Beijing and Shanghai in August, competing with students from other countries.

"It's incredible. I can't believe I won it. The others are so competitive," Inwood said. "I hope I can also win a prize in Beijing. I want to be the second Da Shan (a Canadian popular on Chinese television due to his fluent Chinese); I want to be a famous Chinese pop singer."

Her tutor, Yuan Boping, shared her joy and said that while other students at Cambridge were also brilliant at the language, "they are waiting for next year's event."

Britons no longer limit themselves to their own language. The country is also enthusiastically learning Chinese.

According to Wang Yongda, Education Counselor of the Chinese Embassy, there are eight universities in Britain offering degrees in Chinese, while about 30 provide training in other Chinese academic fields.

"It (teaching Chinese) opens a very crucial window for Britons to Chinese history, culture and current social lives," said Zha Peixin, Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Most British students find that a grasp of the language makes their resumes "stand out" when they are hunting for a job.

(China Daily June 16, 2003)

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