When did you start learning Chinese? What inspired you to take up the language?
I started self-learning the language during high school. There was a new foreign student who joined my maths class, and we had a bit of a language gap. I would talk slower and help his English where I could. In return, he would answer my many questions about what life was like where he was from. That sparked my passion to learn more about the language and the culture that accompanies it.
Tell us about your Chinese language learning journey? What has been the most unexpected or rewarding part of the experience?
I started to see a lot of improvement in my level when I decided to start taking Chinese at university alongside my Bachelor of Science. The most rewarding part of learning Chinese has been all the conversations that I’ve been able to have. People are often genuinely surprised that a non-Chinese person can speak Chinese.
What opportunities have opened up for you as a result of your Chinese speaking ability?
Learning Chinese has allowed me to go to Taiwan for two months as a part of a study language abroad trip. It’s allowed me to speak and connect with many people that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. I know it’ll also serve me well in my future career. I graduate mid-2021, so if you’re doing business in China or with Chinese customers, please contact me!
What do you like most about the Chinese culture?
Chinese culture has such a depth and breadth that I have yet to see in many other places. There are so many aspects of the multi-millennium culture that there is to be discovered. There are so many differences about eastern and western life that is so different and makes it more fun to learn about.
What are the most striking differences between Chinese and Kiwi culture?
Personally, I believe the biggest difference is what I call New Zealand’s ‘mono-culture’ vs The diversity of Chinese life. I think we forget how small New Zealand is and thus things can more be consistently ‘same’ everywhere. Meanwhile, every Chinese city can have its own distinct food, dialect, and way of life while being one whole nation. There is no one ‘Chinese food’, because food in Beijing is totally different from Cantonese food. The Speed of life in Chengdu, a city known for its Pandas and where people enjoy life, is totally different that the speed of life in Shenzhen, the technology capital of the world where ‘Shenzhen speed’ means things develop quickly.
Why do you think other New Zealanders should learn Chinese? Do you have any tips for anyone thinking of taking up the language?
I think New Zealanders should learn Chinese if they are interested in learning about a new culture, curious about what life is like overseas, or even just curious about languages in general. I also believe that Chinese is going to continue to be increasingly important for commerce in the future.
I encourage New Zealanders to learn a little every day and start to use it with the surrounding people you who speak the language. Language is ultimately a tool for communication. If your experience is anything like mine has been so far, people will be pleasantly surprised to see you interested in their culture.