SINGAPORE - He hardly speaks Mandarin at home and was not shortlisted as a finalist last year, but five-year-old Ryan Koenig managed to clinch the top prize for the pre-school category at the 11th YMCA Mandarin Speaking Awards (MSA) prize presentation ceremony on Friday.
"I was shocked and very excited when I found out that I'd won," said Ryan, whose mother is Chinese and father is of German descent.
He took part in the same competition last year but only received an honourable mention. Undeterred, he tried again this year with the support of his family.
Ryan, who is a student at Far Eastern Kindergarten, had to give a speech in Mandarin in front of an audience of 100 people at the final stage of the competition last month. Titled 'My Neighbour of Another Race', the speech is about his Malay neighbour who cooks delicious mee siam and whose son he frequently plays football with.
Like the other participants, he was judged based on his content, language, manner of delivery and expression. The competition, which had a total of 277 participants from 76 schools, was held over six weeks with the aim of sharpening students' Mandarin speaking skills and building their confidence.
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.
Other participants include Isaac Low, lower primary category champion; Wang Yining Marianne, upper primary champion; Ang Yen Chi, lower secondary champion; and Guo Xinyu, upper secondary champion.
Said Mr Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, who graced the event: "While learning the English language has allowed Singaporeans to plug into the global grid, we require our mother tongue as a need to preserve our Singaporean identity, culture and values, particularly in a globalising world."
Correction note: In an earlier version of this story, we misspelt the name of the upper secondary champion. It is actually Guo Xinyu. We are sorry for the error.