11-year-old linguist wows crowd

Heights College student Lize Nortje studied hard to win Mandarin with her teacher Jinyan Li.
Heights College student Lize Nortje studied hard to win Mandarin with her teacher Jinyan Li. Allan Reinikka

ASK 11-year-old Lize Nortje her favourite word and she’ll ask you which language you would like to hear it spoken.

The young linguist can speak Afrikaans, learnt in her native land of South Africa, English, and would you believe it – Mandarin.

After blowing the Rockhampton competition away with her fluent Mandarin, the bubbly Heights College student was flown to Brisbane for the prestigious Queensland Chinese Speech Competition last month.

Run by the Queensland University of Technology, the intense contest saw 150 competitors from about 30 schools whip up a verbal storm.

Lize’s never been to the Orient, but the young adventurer intends to go on a missions trip with her Heights’ classmates when she reaches high school.

And thanks to her Mandarin teacher, Jinyan Li, Lize won’t go hungry either.

Lize said one of the most enjoyable parts of class was learning how to pick up marbles with chopsticks.

Ms Li said she was impressed with all her students who competed in Brisbane.

Heights College headmaster Darren Iselin was proud a student from a regional school stole the show from the larger, Brisbane schools.

Dr Iselin said the school introduced Mandarin because it was spoken by one-fifth of the world’s population, and China was rapidly progressing as a world power.

And in case you were wondering, Lize’s favourite word in Mandarin is “han bao”, better known as hamburger.



hello: ni hao

goodbye: zai jian

thank you: xie xie

Topics:  language

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