M A N D A R I N   S U P E R S T A R

Jimah Ruland-Umata

Rotorua Boys High School

Age: 17

From: Rotorua

Jimah started learning Mandarin in 2012 to help a new classmate, who had limited English, feel welcome. 

Last month Jimah won the 2019 'Chinese Bridge' Proficiency Competition and will be travelling to China with three other Kiwis later this year to compete on the international stage.

Currently Jimah works as a Mandarin tour guide and translator at the Tamaki Māori Village in Rotorua as he completes his high school studies.

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

I started learning Chinese seven years ago (2012). I really wanted to learn the language to help out one of my Chinese classmates who was struggling in class due to his English ability. I thought that by learning Chinese, I’d at least be able to help him try and understand what was being taught. 


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

I’ve wanted to give up on the Chinese language because I thought it would be too hard for me. But I’ve had unexpected encounters and opportunities of a lifetime, helping me remain certain in my choice to continue learning Chinese.


One of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had is the opportunity to meet different people and learn more about their local dialects. I now know a few phrases in the dialect of Beijing, Suzhou, Dongbei, Sichuan and Cantonese. 


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


Because of my Chinese speaking ability, two grand opportunities have opened up for me. The first is that I now work as a guide and Chinese translator and get to meet people from all over the world everyday. Secondly, I get to represent New Zealand at the Chinese Bridge World Champions held in Henan Province later this year.  



What do you like most about Chinese culture? 


The most interesting part of the Chinese culture is the stories behind different noodles. I love noodles and understanding their story behind certain noodles gave me a deeper appreciation for the Chinese culture. 


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


After experiencing both cultures, I can definitely say that the nightlife of both cultures had to be the most striking difference.


Prior to going to China, I’d never thought that so many elderly would be out at night dancing for exercise, or that malls and shops would be open till late! New Zealand nightlife is generally not as safe, apart from the occasional night market here and there, so going to China really opened my eyes to nightlife. 


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


The Chinese language is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, meaning that if anyone can speak Chinese, their doors to a greater economy and business potential start opening. Chinese is a hard language, don’t get me wrong, but if you are whole-heartedly dedicated to the language, you will reap the rewards of the language!