"Language is a part of culture. And if you want to master a foreign language, singing is an effective way," said Zo Rasendra, co-director of the Confucius Institute of the University of Antananarivo.
"We observe that young Malagasy people have singing potential," Rasendra told Xinhua last Saturday on the sidelines of the finals of the inaugural Chinese singing contest, "The most beautiful voice of Madagascar," in the capital, Antananarivo.
The contest, co-organized by the Confucius Institute of the University of Antananarivo, the Confucius Institute of the University of Toamasina and the Ecole de la Francophonie, was aimed to encourage young people to learn Chinese.
About 100 competitors participated, 24 of them advancing to the semifinals.
Andriantsiferana Rutha Esther, one of the 10 finalists, won the first place in the competition.
"Happy! I'm overjoyed!" said the second-year student at the University of Antananarivo's Confucius Institute, who also has a Chinese name, Xu Tianyu.
Esther said she looks forward to traveling to China to compete in the "Learn Chinese by Singing" World Contest.
"This is also my initial objective in studying Chinese. To participate in international contests at the top level (in China)," she said.
Malagasy songs were also featured at the finals. Zhang Shanyi, who uses Lina GPE as her stage name, was invited to sing a song in the local language she wrote by herself.
Zhang's is another example of the role played by singing in learning a language and immersing in a culture.
"My father and mother are both Chinese. We live in Madagascar," she said. "I only learned Malagasy two years ago. I adore Malagasy music and vocalists, as well as the culture here."