Year 10 pupil wins East Asian Studies Competition

Posted by Sitara Bartle on 23 May 2024

Modified by Sitara Bartle on 23 May 2024

Congratulations to year 10 pupil Max for emerging as the winner of the East Asian Studies Competition, organised by the University of Sheffield. This prestigious competition, open to pupils in years 10, 11, and 12, provides students with an opportunity to delve into various aspects of East Asian culture, history, and society, showcasing their knowledge and understanding of the region.

Max spoke about his experience of the competition: “Having been surrounded in East Asian culture and people from an early age, I have been extremely interested in Asian society for several years now. I’ve always been eager to take part in competitions, in the past successfully writing Cantonese poetry, writing about Korean and Japanese literature and translating Mandarin articles for various competitions. Consequently, following an email from my old Russian teacher about the University of Sheffield essay competition, it immediately sparked my interest. The competition’s prompt was to explore how East Asian current events and practices were communicated to the West, and what can we learn from them – with a focus on news reporting, fiction film and documentaries. I really had to think about the more abstract and intangible aspects of East Asian societies and definitely made me conscious on my own perceptions of the world and how they’re informed by my own culture. I decided to utilise some of my favourite East Asian films – In the Mood For Love, Parasite and Spirited Away, all being some of the most influential films in Asia that hold rich insights into the culture they were produced in. In addition to this, I analysed news reporting from Japan and contrasted it with news reporting in the UK. Specifically, I talked about how East Asia views detail, the self, as well as collectivism and individualism.

“My interest in languages and foreign cultures stretches back to Junior School - I began to teach myself Korean, Mandarin and Japanese in year 5, 6, and 7, and have then went on to complete my Mandarin GCSE level exam in year 8, and am currently externally completing my Japanese GCSE early this year. I’ve taught myself to beyond N4 level Japanese (the level required to work in Japan). In addition to this, I’m currently taking weekly lessons in Thai, teaching myself Cantonese and speak Indonesian with my family. At MGS, I’m currently studying Russian and Mandarin, likely both to A-level. As of now, I’m not entirely sure what career path I want to lead in the future, but I’m definitely set on studying languages at university! I’ve luckily been able to receive support from MGS on what I to do, if I want to study languages beyond school. At MGS, I’m part of the language ambassadors team, helping to introduce some of the languages at MGS to families and taking part in various competitions. It’s definitely been a great opportunity to give back to the school community and study languages further, outside of regular lessons”.

Max concluded by saying: “Through learning languages, it really gives you an insight to the perspective and culture of others, and is increasingly important in the interconnected and multicultural global economy. In addition, it allows you to engross yourself in the literature, history and culture of those countries. Studying languages at MGS has been a truly enjoyable experience for me. As both of my teachers are native speakers, they’re able to offer cultural insights and are thoroughly informed on their history and language. I even had an opportunity to visit China last year with MGS and was able to practise my Chinese! But most of all, learning languages, at its core, is about communication – they give you the ability to connect with others on a deeper, more personal level. The look on people’s faces when I order food or talk to visiting families at MGS in Chinese is immeasurably valuable, and motivates me to continue studying Mandarin as much as possible”.


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