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

2010, curiosity 

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

If I can describe my Chinese language journey in one word, it would be squiggly. Learning Chinese hasn't been just about the language, the characters, the grammar rules and more... but more importantly for me, it has provided me with a valuable window into Chinese culture. Understanding the language has helped me start to understand some of the nuances of Chinese lifestyles, attitudes and ways of thinking. On the other hand, through discovering some of China's unique cultural references and traditions, I've also pushed my motivation to learn the language to new and exciting places.

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

I was grateful to spend a few months in Shanghai doing an internship with a local startup, where I had to communicate in Chinese. My Chinese language ability has also been a useful asset where I now work at Fonterra. China is an important strategic market for Fonterra and we also have a team based there, so it's great to be able to communicate in Chinese and stay close to the culture, building some strong relationships.

What do you like most about the Chinese culture? 

Food ranks high up there (I could have jianbing every day...) I enjoy the various Chinese festivals, particularly learning about the stories behind them. Festivals are a big deal in China and they're all rich in culture, traditions and food. It's great to see some of these being celebrated here in New Zealand too.

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

As someone who loves the outdoors, I would say one difference that jumps out to me is the lifestyle. Personally I've observed that most people in China prefer a vibrant and bustling urban lifestyle, whereas in New Zealand, you'd likely find many of us camping, hiking and exploring in our beautiful parks.

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 it's important to find a personal motivator - ask yourself the "why". For me, it was about connecting more with my cultural background, my family and my friends, and as such being able to more freely communicate in social settings. For you, that may be conversing with your Chinese friends or your friendly aunty at your favourite dumpling spot. It could even just be genuine curiosity. It's never too late to start learning

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