Talk about a flair for languages. Rita Chan Yin-nei, 16, speaks and writes English, Cantonese, Putonghua, Indonesian, Javanese and Japanese. The Form Six Arts student at St Paul's Co-educational College was named the South China Morning Post Student Linguist of the Year. Yin-nei learnt all the languages, except Japanese, from her Indonesian-Chinese parents. She began learning Japanese two years ago. With nine As at HKCEE to her credit, Yin-nei plans to study economics at Harvard University in the United States. She wants to work in banking and international trade or as a business translator. 'My next goal is to learn Spanish. It's such a beautiful language,' she said. Last March, Yin-nei defeated 600 other secondary school students to win the Oxford Advanced Learners' Dictionary Usage Competition. As champion, she visited Oxford University and dined with the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. On Yin-nei's desk, there is always a dictionary. She says looking up words is the best way to learn a language. Besides her dictionary triumph, Yin-nei counts the 1996 Harvard Book Prize for writing among her awards. She is also a past winner of the Sir Robert Kotewall Scholarship for the Best English and Chinese Scholar and the Lam Chik Ho Memorial Prize for English. Yin-nei has travelled extensively and has many friends around the world. She started writing to pen friends in China when she was 11. Yin-nei is also a contributing writer to Singapore Airlines' Young Explorer magazine and a member of international pen friends associations, including the Young Writers' Club in Turkey and the Young Eloquent Authors' Haven in Singapore. The judges of the Linguist of the Year competition included professors Evangeline Almberg and Chan Sin-wai, of the Department of Translation at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Dr Leung Yat-ming, chief executive of the Curriculum Development Institute (English Unit) at the Education Department. The judges graded candidates not only on their linguistic ability, but also on their general knowledge and analytical powers. Professor Almberg was impressed by Yin-nei's fluency in Putonghua and multi-lingualism. 'She is a woman of vision in planning to learn Spanish, which, following Chinese, is the most common mother tongue in the world,' she said. Yin-nei will receive a $20,000 Citibank scholarship, two British Airways return tickets to Manila and a Pilgrims educational programme in England, courtesy of Venture. Runners-up Elaine Siu, 18, a Form Seven student at Diocesan Girls' School and Form Six student Edward Lau Kai-fung, 17, of Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong, each win $5,000 Citibank scholarships.