Michael Reznik ’09 initially entered Chinese language competitions simply as a way to improve his accent. His dedication to learning and practicing Mandarin before an audience, however, has paid off in more than an improved accent—he is now studying the language in Beijing, thanks to a year-long scholarship from the Chinese government.
That's quite an accomplishment for someone who decided just two years ago to study Chinese: "All of my friends were Chinese and I just wanted to understand what they were saying," said Reznik.
Speaking Russian while growing up, Reznik was hooked after just a few classes with Zhiqiang Li, assistant professor of modern and classical languages. Reznik not only took classes throughout his last two years at USF, but he also worked with a private tutor and studied independently in his off-hours. By his senior year, he was entering language competitions, despite knowing that many of the winners were students from schools that focus exclusively on languages.
In May, he took the top-place prize at the Northern California round of the 8th Chinese Bridge, a Chinese proficiency competition for foreign college students. He went on to represent the Northern California region in the final rounds in Changshai, China, this summer. Although he didn't place in that competition, he did earn a scholarship from the Chinese government to study Chinese this year at the prestigious Beijing Language and Culture University.
That Chinese is a tonal language—each combination of sounds can be pronounced in four different tones, with each tone representing a different word—is part of what makes Chinese so challenging to learn. Yet for Reznik, the tonal aspect is precisely what he loves about the language.
"If spoken perfectly, it really sounds beautiful," Reznik said, adding that he enjoys the challenge of learning the tones.
Reznik, who is studying in Beijing now, hopes to eventually become fluent and to somehow combine his knowledge of Chinese with his degree in finance.