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July 3, 2010

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Home » Metro » Education

Star graduate is a language ace

FOR the first time, a foreign student has been honored with the prestigious Principal Award of Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

She is Yelmurat Lira, an exceptionally talented new graduate who is fluent in eight languages.

With graduation season under way, signalling new starts in life and farewells to school days, she is leaving for her homeland Kazakhstan with deep affection for China after five years of study in the city.

Lira is proud that she has made lots of international friends from different cultures and backgrounds with the aid of her special gift in language. Her skills extend to Russian, English, Kazakh, Turkish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and French.

Even studying in a second language and competing with many top Chinese students, she was in the top 20 in the university's School of Electronic Information and Electrical Engineering.

It took her about nine months to master Chinese, a language that has stumped many foreigners from dissimilar language families.

"Chinese is not the most difficult language I have learned," she said. The hardest, she said, was the first foreign language she attempted: Russian.

"It was very painful at first," she said.

Though born in Kazakhstan, she couldn't speak Kazakh because she grew up in Turkey, where her father worked as a software engineer. That's how she learned Turkish and English.

"My father was afraid that I couldn't speak Kazakh," she said. "So he sent me back to our homeland after I finished primary school education."

"I couldn't understand the class in Russian and I had no friends," Lira recalled. "I missed Turkey very much and I hated going to school. My mother had to call my classmates to ask what the homework was for me after class."

Luckily, children learn quickly. It took her about a year to conquer Kazakh and Russian. "After such a painful experience, it seems easier for me to learn new languages," she said.

Though wishing to pursue her studies in China, Lira has to first return to her homeland and serve for about five years, a condition of the state scholarship.


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