Nyanga twins have a talent for languages

* Lathi and Yathi Mehana pose in traditional dress at a photo shoot for the Ninth Chinese Proficiency Competition in Beijing.

A pair of twins achieved more than they dreamt they could in less time than it usually takes when they reached the semi-finals of the Ninth Chinese Proficiency Competition – with only six months of preparation under their belts.

Lathi and Yathi Mehana’s Mandarin teacher, Meixiu Wang, spotted that the 16-year-olds had a talent for language.

She invited the twins, who live in Nyanga, to join the Confuscious Club at the Cape Academy of Maths, Science and Technology in Constantia where they started Grade 10 at the beginning of the year.

“We are linguistic people,” said Yathi, explaining that Mandarin is the fifth language they are learning to speak. The twins are already fluent in Xhosa, Zulu and English and speak a bit of Afrikaans.

“So we thought, let’s take this on as well,” Lathi said. “We wanted to also learn an international language.”

Each year, the club prepares talented students for the competition, which tests pupils on Chinese culture, history and language. Ms Wang started preparing club members about six months ago. At the beginning, six students took part but as time went by, the numbers dwindled until eventually only the twins were still studying for the competition.

To compete successfully, the girls needed to recite a speech in Chinese, write a test and display a talent. The girls chose singing and dancing as their talent.

Surpassing their wildest expectations, they finished first in the national leg of the competition, which earned them an all-expenses paid trip to Beijing where they would take part in the international leg of the competition.

And it wasn’t easy. Ms Wang worked with them at every given opportu-

“This was not easy for them. Sometimes the girls hated me because I always pressed them but we succeeded. Everything you want to get, you have to work hard for it,” Ms Wang said.

Over and above their normal school classes and exams the girls took extra classes after school to prepare for the competition.

The competition was extra challenging for them, they said because they had only been learning Mandarin from the beginning of the year but some of the stu-
dents they competed against had been learn-
ing the language for several years al-

“Some of the children get Chinese classes every day,” Lathi said.

The girls departed for China in August to compete against 450 other contest-

In between tests and performances the twins toured a lot, visiting Chinese families, schools, museums and the Great Wall.

All their hard work paid off when they finished fourth in Africa, earning them a place in the semi-finals where their winning streak ended. Nevertheless, the twins did not walk away empty-handed and won a scholarship to study in China for six months. “We’re really grateful for the experience. I never thought I would be able to go overseas. I never thought about going further than South Africa,” Yathi said.

Ms Wang praised the twins on their hard work.

“If we find some special student, we have to push them,” she said.