The International Hippo English Olympiad was held in Rome, Italy on September 27-30, and more than 80,000 students from 61 countries gathered. We talked to a seventh-grade student of the Hobby School, T.Misheel, who won a silver medal from the Olympiad.
Have you participated in the International Olympiad before? Is this your first time?
I am 12 years old. Previously, I studied at the Shine Mongol Harumafuji School from the first grade and studied English there from the fifth grade. When my mother first heard about the Hippo Olympiad, she wanted me to participate, but I was too young to compete. When I was in the fifth grade, I participated in the Olympiad for the first time and won the regional stage. Since last year, I have been studying at the English language school “Hobby” with an international program. Teacher of our school, B.Lkhagvasuren, suggested my participation in the Hippo Olympiad. The first round of the Olympiad was held in Mongolia. I came in second in my category out of 259 students. The next round was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last July, and I won first place in the “Hippo S-10” category. As a result, I became eligible to participate in the World Olympiad. In the last round, 223 students competed in a total of nine categories, and I won a silver medal in the Hippo S10 category with 89.39 points. I also participated in the Science Foundation Olympiad in 2022 for the first time, won first place in the domestic competition, and participated in the next round. In addition, last summer, for the first time, I participated in the World Scholar’s Cup with two of my classmates.
What tasks did you complete in the team competition?
In the stages of the World Scholar’s Cup competition, everyone had tasks such as writing essays, debating, reading and studying according to the given topic, and answering questions in groups and individually. The topics were quite broad, including environment, journalism, history, science, and society. In this competition, I won 10 individual medals and 15 medals as a team. I took part in the next round of competition in Thailand and won seven gold medals. As a result, we have the right to participate in the World finals held at Yale University in the United States of America.
I heard from your teacher that their students have never achieved such high results in the Hippo Olympiad before. What is special about this Olympiad?
The Olympiad has “Hippo S-10”, “S-15”, and “S-19” categories. These categories are the most challenging because it requires mastery of English at a more academic level. In this category, only children who are considered bilingual and school students who take all their lessons in English compete. Other types have normal requirements. For me, this time I participated three steps higher than last year. My teacher greatly influenced my successful participation in this. T.Danzan, a student in the 11th grade of our school, and I participated in this Olympiad together. He participated in the highest level, “Hippo S-19”, and won fourth place. A total of 10 students from Mongolia participated in this Olympiad.
At what age did you start learning English?
When I was little, my parents used to read books in Mongolian and English. They also buy a lot of books. Every time I go out, I go to a bookstore. We have a lot of books, so it is difficult to contain them at home. Therefore, my mother donated some of her books to the Rotary Project. I still love to read. My parents say that I learned to read in English at the age of four. I also watched YouTube a lot. I like to watch video content. I also watched movies with my mother. I think that English teacher, E.Tsaschimeg of Shine Mongol Harumafuji School also laid a strong foundation for me.
Which countries did you visit to participate in competitions, Olympiads, and other reasons? What did you like about other countries?
I visited China, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, the Netherlands and Thailand. I don't remember some of them well, but I remember the first time I went to Hong Kong with my parents. I make new friends when I participate in competitions and contests. I enjoyed playing with them. I went to Rome first and made up for the time difference, so I got to see the ancient city and the big cinema. There are almost no skyscrapers, the food is delicious, and there is a lot to see. I thought it was nice that most of these countries are less dusty and have a lot of safe and green environments to relax and play in, such as parks. The children participating in the Olympiad were placed in a city center hotel. But the Olympiad took place in another city.
I shared a room with students from five different countries. We were practicing regularly at fixed times every day. Sometimes we played together. I like them a lot and we are still in touch. I also visited Milan, Italy. This country is interesting, but food, clothes, and accommodation was very expensive. For example, the price of half a liter of water is 2 EUR, which is equal to 8,000 MNT. I also liked that there were all brands of clothing stores in only one street. I bought myself some dinosaur earrings. Pasta and pizza are very tasty. During the tournament in Thailand, I had fun with my teammates at the park. There, we became a team with children we didn’t know and played fun games. Also, we visited the Royal Palace of Thailand. As part of the competition, we participated in promoting our country when countries organized events to promote their culture. Our country’s embassy staff in Thailand helped us.
What was the most important factor for success?
When I was little, teachers and family members said, “You should learn to sit first”. My elementary school teacher Sh.Punsaldulam influenced me in this way. In the Hobby School, children learn English from the first grade. Therefore, since last year, teacher B.Lkhagvasuren has been teaching additional lessons and he has been systematically studying grammar on his own almost from the beginning. He taught me the rules very clearly and in a short time, which was very helpful.
How do you prepare for the Olympiads?
I started preparing with my teacher last spring to participate in international competitions and Olympiads. I hardly get any rest. This summer, I participated in the World Scholar’s Cup with older students from the school. They shared their experiences and advised me. Also, my parents help and support me a lot. Our school teachers care a lot about the success of their students. I understand and know many things because I study the reading materials included in the competition program.
When competing with students from different countries, have you noticed their special advantages?
The skills and preparation of students in each country are different. Children in some countries are using English in their daily lives. So, for me, it was an advantage to be well prepared. If we did not prepare well, we would not be able to promote Mongolia and return. And the most important thing is good teamwork. When other team members noticed, I felt bad about working together. They did not prepare well together during the competition, so they faced problems such as duplicating one idea on the assignment. Some team members had memorized the materials given by the organizers like poems.
What advice would you give to those who want to learn a foreign language?
It is important not to think that it is too late, and to start studying a foreign language without wasting time. Don’t worry about reading or pronouncing it right or wrong. It will be more interesting if you learn through your favorite books, movies, music, and songs. You should also install applications and games on your phone that help you learn the language.