China gets first seanchaí as Irish boy masters Mandarin


AN IRISH boy has come in the top five of the All China Story Telling competition which took place in Hangzhou, China yesterday.

Nine-year-old Tiernan Murphy, who was representing the bilingual Yew Chung International School in Shanghai, impressed the judges with his rendition of the story of Little Red Riding Hood– in Mandarin.

It is the first time a child from outside Asia has made it to the final of the competition which is organised by the Chinese government’s department of education.

“We’re so proud of Tiernan,” said his father Eoin.

“To be the first non-Asian child to reach the final in the history of the competition is just fantastic.”

Speaking after this win, Tiernan said: “It feels great. I got great help from my teachers and my friends and family in Ireland have been phoning and e-mailing all day.”

Tiernan, who has studied Mandarin for three years, is now fluent in the language. Mr Murphy said: “If Tiernan answers the phone when a Chinese person calls our house, they assume he’s Chinese.” The language is notoriously difficult to learn, with 3,500 characters in its alphabet.

The storytelling competition is judged on storytelling ability, technical skills in Mandarin and stage presence. Mr Murphy said: “In China, the story is called Little Red Riding Hat and the wolf gets cut open with scissors. Tiernan loves acting and it was no problem to him to deliver the drama on stage.” The Murphy family, which hails from Woodford, Co Galway, moved to Shanghai three years ago when Tiernan’s mother Cliona took a job as vice-president of research and development with PepsiCo in Asia. His father is president of the Le Chéile Irish association in Shanghai.

Speaking about the family’s experience in China, Mr Murphy said: “There’s a great affinity between the Chinese and the Irish. There is a huge opportunity for Irish business here. Ireland has only scratched the surface of it.”

Tiernan and younger brother Ronan (7) are members of the Le Chéile Kids group which sang for President Mary McAleese during her visit to the World Expo in Shanghai in June.

Mr Murphy said: “His nana Murphy is recovering from bypass surgery in the Mater today, so this win is for her.”