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Irina Wong

When and why did you start learning Chinese?

I started learning Chinese when I was 7 years old, with a group of kids that were also New Zealand-born Chinese. I have been learning Chinese for 10 years now, though this time I have been able to connect with my Chinese culture and have the opportunity to discover my root as a Chinese descendant.

What is the best thing about learning Chinese?

A memorable opportunity that I got was that I had the chance to go back to my mum’s hometown Dalian, and this is where I got to meet her side of the family and experience China in person, which was a lot easier and everything was much more accessible because I knew Chinese. Going to China was a very different experience because it is so different from NZ, which made the trip more memorable.

What opportunities have you gained because of your Chinese learning?

One of the best aspects of being able to speak and understand Chinese is that I could communicate with my grandparents. They don’t understand English and living in a foreign country where you don’t understand the language is very hard for them, so I am very grateful that I am able to be their translator and their comfort when living in NZ.

What would you say to other Kiwis who are thinking about learning Chinese?

I think learning Chinese is one of the best skills one can have, it will open up a whole new world. You will not only learn about a new culture, but you are to experience a deeper understanding of Chinese culture, history, and traditions. It will allow you to appreciate the richness and diversity of Chinese heritage, which is one of a kind.

Do you have a favourite Chinese word or expression? Why do you like it?

My favourite Chinese expression is 赠人玫瑰 手留余香, gifting them a rose, leaves the fragrance in my hands. This expression means that service extends both ways. Service has not only brought happiness to the people around me but also to myself. I have found that this is a big part of Chinese culture and as Chinese, we stick together and serve each other whenever we can. The Chinese community is so enthusiastic and very heartwarming.

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