He hardly speaks Mandarin at home, and was not shortlisted as a finalist last year, but five-year-old Ryan Koenig still managed to clinch the top prize for the pre-school category at the 11th YMCA Mandarin Speaking Awards prize presentation ceremony yesterday.
"I was shocked and very excited when I found out that I'd won," said Ryan, whose mother is a Singaporean Chinese and father is of German descent.
He took part in the same competition last year and received an honourable mention.
"At first, we were worried that he would get stage fright, but the competition has helped him to speak confidently in Mandarin," said Ryan's mother, Mrs Jasmine Koenig, who is a principal tax officer at the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.
Ryan, who is a pupil at Far Eastern Kindergarten, had to speak in Mandarin to some 100 people at the final stage of the competition last month. He spoke about his Malay neighbour who cooks delicious mee siam and whose son he frequently plays football with.
He was judged based on content, language, manner of delivery and expression.
The competition ran for six weeks and involved 277 participants from 76 schools, with the aim of sharpening students' Mandarin- speaking skills. Students competed in five categories according to their age, with secondary school finalists also subjected to an impromptu bilingualism speech segment where they delivered their speeches in Mandarin and English.
Ryan was one of 6o students who received an award at the ceremony held at the Woodlands Regional Library. The other winners were: Isaac Low, lower primary category; Wang Yining Marianne, upper primary; Ang Yen Chi, lower secondary; and Guo Xinyu, upper secondary.
Mr Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, who gave out several awards, said: "While learning the English language has allowed Singaporeans to plug into the global grid, we require our mother tongue as we need to preserve our Singaporean identity, culture and values, particularly in a globalising world."