Jacqueline Mata, a 14-year-old Latino girl from El Paso, has been chosen to represent the United States in the Turkish Language Olympiad to be held May 23-June 14 in Istanbul.

The teen, who was chosen last month at the Olympiad U.S. finals in Houston, will compete against 179 students from other countries in a contest where all the songs will be sung in Turkish.

But for Mata that won't be a problem since she has been taking Turkish classes since 2009 and believes she has developed a really respectable grasp of the language.

"I'm immensely happy because I will not only represent my city but the whole country. I hope to do a good job and make my artistic mark with a foreign audience," the singer told Efe.

Mata attends Harmony Science Academy El Paso, a charter school.

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"I've always been particularly fascinated by Turkey, and that's why I wanted to learn the language. Then I learned several songs and here comes this beautiful opportunity," Jacqueline said.

The student also said that the school board has behaved like her own family and that teachers and classmates meet with her all the time to encourage her in this new facet of her future artistic career.

The organizing body of the U.S. Finals is Raindrop Turkish House, a non-profit foundation present in eight states around the country and whose mission is to teach Turkish culture in the United States.

The organization is also sponsoring Mata and will pay all the expenses of her artistic adventure.

Jacqueline was invited to Turkey last year to attend the Turkish Language Olympiad but this is the first time she will compete.

"I already know something about Istanbul, but now I want to find out more about its culture and its people so I can make a lot of friends," she said.

Mata has her musical repertoire ready and has included such songs as "Arkadas" (Amigos), "Soyle Buldun mu" (Que Crees que Dicen, or What Do You Think They're Saying), and "Gurbet" (Nostalgia).

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She spends every afternoon practicing the lyrics, knowing full well that besides her intonation, the juries will be paying keen attention to her pronunciation.

One factor in Jacqueline's favor is the wholehearted support of her mother, who has also learned to speak Turkish for the sole purpose of helping her daughter.

"I thought it was vital to learn the new language that my daughter speaks, so I'll know what she's talking about," laughed Norma Longoria, who is doing all the necessary so she can accompany her Jaqueline to the land of the Turks.

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