OF THE assembled local politicians and dignitaries at Monday’s formal twinning ceremony, very few could boast to understanding anything that was said in Chinese, even though the mayor did have a go at speaking it. But there was one Kilkenny man present who was able to comprehend what was being said- and what’s more - to reply in kind.
Local student Jack Kirwan (14), from Inistioge, has been studying Mandarin in addition to his school work for over a year now. He is in second-year at Kilkenny College. While Mandarin is not on the curriculum, Jack decided to seek outside tutelage.
“I’ve been doing it since last year,” he said.
“There are six levels and i’m on level three. In school, I am learning French, German and Irish. I like languages and I thought it would be something i’d like to do.”
A level three speaker is able to hold casual conversations in Chinese, use colloquialisms and understand narratives. Jack had the chance to put his skills to the test, when he found himself in conversation with the leader of the Chinese delgation, Director Wang Aixian.
“She said ‘your Chinese is very good’,” he said.
Jack was then invited by a representative of the Chinese consulate to visit the Chinese embassy in Dublin. The student’s mother said she had encouraged his interest in the language.
“He had been interested in it from a long way back,” she said.
“We looked for someone who taught it and finally found a lady in Waterford.”
Jack said he was able to understand a reasonable amount of what was said during the ceremony, and he said that the mayor had done a pretty good job with his Mandarin address.
Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council Paul Cuddihy, who teaches Jack history in Kilkenny College, said it showed great determination to learn another language in his own time.
“For a lad of 14 to take himself down to Waterford every weekend for the last year shows great resilience,” he said.