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Mandarin Superstar


Jaffar Bui


1.When did you start learning Chinese? What inspired you to take up the language?


2017, in my second year of Uni. I love watching Chinese historical dramas, so when my friend told me about the part-time language diploma, I was all in. Growing up, a large portion of my friends were Chinese as well – this was an incentive to learn how to communicate in a way closer to home.

2. Tell us about your Chinese language journey. What has been the most unexpected or rewarding part of the experience?

The most unexpected part has been the opportunity to live in Beijing over 2019, something that would never have crossed my mind two years prior. It’s also been the most rewarding, in terms of cultural immersion, language progress and personal development.

3. What opportunities have opened up for you as a result of your Chinese speaking ability?


My first semester learning Chinese at UoA lead to my first trip to Kunming in 2017, which led to another trip to Tainan in 2018, then to Chengdu for an internship, and finally to Beijing over 2019.  I have found that the more I put into learning Chinese, the more doors than open both in China and in NZ. My current role as a contractor for a Chinese company in Auckland is a good example of this. Finally, the opportunity to foster otherwise unlikely friendships is priceless and keeps me going.

4. What do you like most about Chinese culture?


Business and social relations are built intertwined into the community. Many argue this brings disingenuousness into relationships. From my experience and perspective, this creates a higher standard for close friendships, and a deeper appreciation for them – something I value highly.

5.What are the most striking differences between Chinese and Kiwi culture?


I’m in absolute awe of the sheer amount of hard work Chinese young adults do in comparison to Kiwi’s in the same age bracket. I like how the culture encourages you to try your best and fulfil your ambitions.

6.Why do you think other New Zealanders should learn Chinese? Do you have any tips for those thinking of taking up the language?

Given the longstanding NZ-Sino relationship and the local, vibrant Chinese community in New Zealand – Chinese learners will have more avenues in using and enjoying their language skills. There is a stark contrast between Kiwi and Chinese culture. Learning the language can therefore help you widen your perspective and appreciate other worldviews on many areas in life.

7.Do you have any tips for those thinking of taking up the language?

Find a way to spend time in a native Chinese speaking environment. International travel is unlikely at this stage, so maybe try university clubs or language meet-ups. 
I never made much progress learning at a ‘comfortable pace’. 
Getting headaches listening to Chinese is part of the process, the brain needs to learn a whole new system. 
Ultimately, the results of your progress and how you enjoy it will keep you going. For me, this was speaking to friends and listening to Chinese hiphop. 

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