UWA philosophy student Theo Stapleton has won the Australian regional final of the Chinese Bridge (Hanyu Qiao) language competition.

Theo's impressive Mandarin language skills were complemented by his throat singing cultural performance. Theo performed Khoomei and Sygyt, which involve the production of two notes through a variety of throat and mouth techniques. This style of music is found in the grasslands of Northern China, and is still practiced in Inner Mongolia.

Theo's repertoire also encompasses more conventional forms of performance: he has been a member of the Winthrop Singers choir and in 2015 he represented UWA at the World Debating Championships in Malaysia.

Theo said his high school choir teacher initially sparked his interest in harmonic singing.

"Then one day I accidentally stumbled on the throat technique used in Khoomei, or Tuvan/Mongolian throat singing," he said.

"At that time I was in Beijing, and continued to practice a lot on my own."

Theo went on to perform Khoomei at both Beijing University and Beijing Language and Culture University. Despite this, he was not able to find a teacher until he met members of the Inner Mongolia Arts University when they visited Perth earlier this year.

The Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students Program is a large-scale international competition organised by Confucius Institute Headquarters(Hanban) in Beijing.

Students aged between 18 and 30 who do not speak Chinese as a first language take part to demonstrate their language proficiency, knowledge of China, and skill in a cultural performance such as music or art. The competition is an important platform for international college students to learn the Chinese language and understand more about China. It also serves to help young people in the world better communicate with one another.

Since its launch in 2002, this annual event has involved hundreds of thousands of students from more than 100 countries in the preliminary rounds. 

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that the second most spoken language in Australia is now Mandarin.

Read more about the competition.