When did you start learning Chinese? What inspired you to take up the language?
When I moved to Xiamen, China at age 18 for a 6 month teaching placement, I quickly discovered that learning Chinese was the only way I could live and eat. I spent two years in Xiamen learning Chinese while I worked as an English Teacher and traveled the country.
Tell us about your Chinese language learning journey? What has been the most unexpected or rewarding part of the experience?
There have been a lot of surprises during my language learning journey. Being able to freely communicate with my partner's family has been very important as they don't speak English. The 2019 opportunity to supervise a group of New Zealand born Chinese students to go to Inner Mongolia on a Root Finding Trip, and seeing them learn more about their culture and history was very rewarding. One of the most entertaining moments was when I was working as an Uber driver in Auckland city and was able to catch some Chinese passengers out when I heard them speaking about me in my car.
What opportunities have opened up for you as a result of your Chinese speaking ability?
2016 MC of the New Zealand China Golden Ribbon Culture and Arts Festival
2017 MC of the opening of the Chinese Film Festival in Christchurch
2017 China Cultural Center Students Award Tour to Beijing and Harbin
Pre-Covid Chinese Farm Tours on my family farm
2019 Root Finding Trip to Inner Mongolia
Regular contributor to the Palmary Magazine
On the Executive Committee of the Christchurch branch of the New Zealand China Friendship Society
What do you like most about the Chinese culture?
I love how people socialize in China - whether young or old everyone comes together over food - dinner is not a 15 minute gobble it down kinda thing, but an experience that lasts as long as the conversation with vast arrays of different food that keeps coming and coming.
What are the most striking differences between Chinese and Kiwi culture?
The Chinese people are some of the most hospitable people I have ever met, they are fantastic hosts and true, loyal friends. Family is very important to Chinese and they do very well in caring for the elderly. They are also very driven and hardworking. They are truly passionate about their many festivals.
Why do you think other New Zealanders should learn Chinese? Do you have any tips for anyone thinking of taking up the language?
When you learn Chinese, the world is your oyster. There are great opportunities in New Zealand for Chinese speakers, and it puts you in high demand for jobs. It also allows you to learn more about a country that is very important to New Zealand. It is a hard language to learn, but don't let that deter you from trying. My biggest tip would be to learn the characters alongside the spoken language. Many foreigners will speak Chinese beautifully but cannot read or write. The characters have a long history and can tell a greater story about the language. As a dyslexic person myself, I found learning the characters actually easier than learning spoken Chinese.