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Mandarin champ en route to China

A Scottish schoolgirl has won the trip of a lifetime to China after scooping top prize at a prestigious Mandarin-speaking competition.

Ellie Koepplinger, 15, pictured, an S4 pupil at Hillhead High in Glasgow, will visit Beijing's Forbidden City and the Great Wall.

Ellie was the sole champion in the beginner category in the competition run by the British Council and HSBC. She will join 10 other winners from the intermediate, advanced and group categories on the trip; there were 90 participants altogether from 25 UK schools.

After giving a presentation on her favourite Chinese-language pop group - Taiwanese band Fahrenheit - Ellie was questioned further by the judges in Mandarin and had to give spontaneous answers.

"The judges weren't looking for memorisation - they wanted you to demonstrate fluency in the language and an ability to improvise," Ellie said.

Although Ellie only started studying Mandarin and Chinese culture in S2 at Hillhead, part of Scotland's Confucius Classroom Hub network, she said she loved the language. It was not as hard to pick up as many people thought, she added.

Ellie, whose mother is Scottish and father American, said: "Learning any language is a challenge at the start, but once you've got your head round the pronunciation and tones in Chinese, the grammar is virtually non- existent."

She hopes to study Chinese history at university.

Six Scottish schools made it through to the final.

emma.seith@tess.co.uk.

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