Bahraini wins global Korean-language speech, wants to deepen her Korean cultural, linguistic knowledge

Ambassador Hae Kwan Chung congratulates Zahra on her achievement (Korean embassy)

Ambassador Hae Kwan Chung congratulates Zahra on her achievement (Korean embassy)

By Habib Toumi

MANAMA: Zahra Al Safi, the Bahraini student who won a Korean-language speech contest after beating 1,918 competitors from 90 King Sejong Institutes worldwide, has expressed immense delight with the achievement and pledged to further her studies in the Korean language.

Zahra was particularly grateful to the Korean embassy in Bahrain and Ambassador Hae Kwan Chung for encouraging and motivating her until she topped the competition.

She said that she took up the study of Korean in 2016 after meeting people from South Korea in Bahrain who praised her way of pronouncing their language.

“Their positive attitude was instrumental in encouraging me to learn the language and not just be content with some words,” she said.

As she started picking up more words and new sentences in Internet courses, her enthusiasm for the language increased.

Zahra said that she had participated in speech competition in Arabic and in English, and when she heard about Korean language contest, she became interested in it and decided to join.

The preliminary competition among Bahrain-based participants was not easy, but she eventually made it to the top and won the right to represent Bahrain in the international competition. She then had to face the top contestants studying at 90 Sejong institutes across the world.

From April to July, 1,918 students competed and under the rules, only ten could qualify for the final round. The Bahraini contestant was among them.

First lady Kim Jung-sook speaks during the online final of a Korean-language speech contest in Seoul (Yonhap)

First lady Kim Jung-sook speaks during the online final of a Korean-language speech contest in Seoul (Yonhap)

In the finals held online due to the travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19, each contestant was given four minutes to talk in Korean about “the Koreans I met, the Koreans I will meet.”

Zahra said that most of the contestants spoke in their speech about their stances and how they got to know Korean citizens.

“I took a different approach and I touched on how I saw the character and features of the Korean people. This angle obviously set me apart and helped me win the contest,” she said.

Zahra described three characteristics of Korean people and culture that have had an influence on her learning the Korean language.

She described how quick Koreans are in giving praise and how their sincerity really increases confidence.

Zahra added that the special ability of Korean people reading other’s mental and physical condition without any verbal conversation and taking care of others was what she wanted to have.

She also mentioned how impressed she was by the diligence of her teachers in always being available to assist her in the learning process.

Zahra during the contest finals

Zahra during the contest finals (Yonhap)

Following her achievement, Ambassador Hae Kwan Chung offered her his congratulations and encouragement.

Zahra said she was looking forward to specializing in the Korean language in order to become a competent translator and interpreter in Arabic and Korean.

“Such specialization is rare and I am keen on filling a void. I hope to become one day an ambassador for Arab culture and customs for Koreans, particularly Bahraini culture and customs,” she said.

The Korean speech contest is held under the auspices of the Korean ministry of culture, sports and tourism and the King Sejong Institute.

King Sejong invented the Korean alphabet “hangeul,” and the institute, named after him, offers foreigners Korean language courses and Korean culture activities abroad. Korea celebrates “hangeul” on October 9.

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