top of page
Golden Circle.png
Alistair Crozier - NZ China Council.jpg

Oliver Ibbetson

When and why did you start learning Chinese?

In 2014, I joined the Asia:NZ Leadership Network on a trip to Taiwan. I really enjoyed getting to know the people and the culture. I was offered a Prime Minister's scholarship to spend a year in southern Taiwan learning Mandarin Chinese which I took up the following year.

What is the best thing about learning Chinese? What opportunities have you gained because of your Chinese learning?

I’ve quite purposefully combined questions two and three. The best thing about learning Chinese, as well as the opportunities gained from learning the language has been meeting my wife and gaining a family. We met in 2015, and have been together since. We made a decision for our son to be born in Taiwan, and have spent the past three and a half years there to encourage him to learn Chinese in a native environment as well. We also speak Chinese at home to keep the language alive.

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

The best advice I can give Kiwis looking to learn Chinese is to focus on conversation, and talking. In a native environment, starting from ordering a cup of coffee and building on from that helps. Spending too much time on reading and writing is great if you’ve got the time, but takes a lot of mental resource which can be better devoted to having conversations.

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

Yeah this is a bit silly but I like the two phrases; “我可以問你” and "我可以吻你”; pronounced; “Wǒ kěyǐ wèn nǐ" and "wǒ kěyǐ wěn nǐ”
The first one translate as ‘May I ask you” the second one translates as “may I kiss you” The difference being wèn (4th tone) and wěn (3rd tone). It demonstrates how difficult the tones can be when learning the language. Particularly the case if you’ve got a kiwi accent.

bottom of page