NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS – Fourteen high school students on Nevis have become the first in the Federation to pass a locally administered Test Of Chinese as a Foreign Language TOCFL), demonstrating their ability to speak the Mandarin language.
The students, who attend various public and private schools on the island, received awards and gift packages provided by Mandarin teacher Ms. Chi Chen and the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) Ministry of Education, during a ceremony held Monday, July 18, 2022 at the Malcolm Guishard Recreational Park.
Ms. Zahnela Claxton, Principal Education Officer in the Department of Education, commended the students on their accomplishments, noting that she looks forward to more students, both children and adults, being able to write the exam in the future.
“In a historic first step, 17 students wrote the pilot Test Of Chinese as a Foreign Language and we are here to celebrate 14 students who were successful in completing the pilot assessment at both Novice One and Novice Two levels. It is worthy of note that the exam was taken here on Nevis but it was graded in Taiwan.
“Ms. Chen has interacted with the children in secondary schools on Nevis but later expanded to capture many adults who eagerly reached out and showed interest in learning mandarin and now approximately 60 students including adults are enrolled in Mandarin sessions,” she said.
Ms. Chi Chen, who moved from Taiwan to Nevis in October 2020 to teach Mandarin at the high schools, said she is proud of how far the students have come since then.
“October 2020 was the first time I stepped onto this beautiful island, and my mission was to bring Mandarin into the lives of Nevisian students. After almost two years when I step into the schools students are saying Ni Hao [hello] instead of other teasing, and they now call me Chen Laoshi (teacher). In my classes, I try to showcase Taiwan- our culture, our language. I also create opportunities for my students to use what they learn, for example, the bilingual speech, the performance, shopping in Chinese stores and even ordering food from Chinese restaurants.
“On April 22 I held a pilot Test Of Chinese as a Foreign Language, the very first time being held in St. Kitts and Nevis. Next year I am going to hold an official test. This will provide the opportunity for my middle school and adult students to be awarded with an official certificate to prove to themselves that yes they can do it. They are getting closer to being bilingual and have come so far from just being able to say hello in Mandarin. Keep doing what you are doing,” she encouraged the students.
The students receiving Novice One TOCFL awards were Jenieve Thomas, Nathalie Providence, Kaidyane Parris, Toussaint Trotman, Jewel Perkins, Kereisha Jederon, Dekijay Dore, and Stoute Obrian. The Novice 2 awardees were Kalliya Isaac, Malia Trotman, Shirmia Thompson, Thierry Thompson, Kalyah Jones, and Ewin Telemaque.
Premier of Nevis, Hon. Mark Brantley, Senior Minister of Education in the NIA, also extended congratulations to the group of students, highlighting how having Mandarin as a second language opened up more opportunities for growth and advancement for them worldwide.
“Mandarin is spoken by over a billion people in the world; over 11 percent of the global population speaks this language. It, therefore, means that if we can become bilingual, if the younger ones can learn this language, it makes you so much more marketable that you can go to other places in the world and be able to communicate, and communication is key for trade, for development, for relationships, and that’s very important.
“I think now the world is much wider, much broader, that we’re interacting more often though the internet, through all of the new technology that we have, with nations and people from different parts of the world. So Mandarin, which opens up the door to over a billion people, really is to my mind, a tremendous asset if we develop it,” he posited.
His Excellency Michael Lin, Resident Ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to St. Kitts and Nevis, along with a number of personnel from the Taiwanese Embassy, attended the awards ceremony. Ambassador Lin saluted the students for attaining a level of proficiency in his native language.
“Congratulations to all the outstanding students for your achievement in the exam. I hope you will continue to learn this language, with passion and desire. I wish you all the best in your future endeavours and may you all become youth ambassadors who connect our two countries.
“Speaking a new language means opening the gate to a new world. As you keep going on this journey of learning Mandarin, little by little you are equipping yourself with what you need to realize your dreams in the future, no matter if you aspire to do advanced studies in Taiwan, conduct business in any Mandarin-speaking country or even become the Ambassador to Taiwan.”
Premier Brantley and Ambassador Lin distributed the certificates and gift bags to the students. Mr. Kevin Barrett, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, delivered closing remarks.