Chinese learning key to Hamilton's future

1 Sep 2015

Hamilton will continue to be a 'city of the future' if more residents learn Chinese. That is the view of university students and co-coordinators of New Zealand Chinese Language Week (September 7-13) in Hamilton, Sarah Thomson and Zhixia Zhao.

"When we look to the future and at building trade and business relationships with our neighbours in the Asia Pacific region, we must realise English is no longer the language of business. If we want to trade on an international platform, we need to widen our understanding of other cultures and languages. People really appreciate it when you have taken the time to learn their language - even if it is just a few words or phrases, the effort goes a long way," Sarah says.

Sarah Thomson, a law student at the University of Waikato and Youth Ambassador for the New Zealand Chinese Language Week Trust, has been learning Mandarin for more than five years. She first found her passion for the language when she travelled to China for an English teaching exchange programme in 2010, and has returned to China several times, her most recent trip being to study law on a Prime Minister's Scholarship for Asia.

Sarah decided to become involved in New Zealand Chinese Language Week as way to encourage more Kiwis to take up learning a second language.

"I think that when you learn a new language, you get to experience a whole new life. It opens up your eyes, and helps you to better understand not just other cultures, but your own too."

Bringing people and the community together through increasing cross-cultural understanding is also another reason Sarah believes more Kiwis should learn a second language.

Zhixia Zhao is doing her masters in finance at the University of Waikato, and has been teaching Mandarin to local students at the Waikato Mandarin Corner for more than two years. She is passionate about teaching, and enjoys seeing her students progress.

"I think the best thing about teaching Mandarin, is that moment when a student's face lights up and they suddenly get it. It's also really exciting seeing students going from only saying 'Ni Hao', to being able to have a conversation."

Zhixia is especially looking forward to sharing her culture with Kiwis.

"My wish is for everyone taking part in the language week to have fun, and experience some different aspects of Chinese culture through our activities."

Sarah and Zhixia anticipate that through initiatives such as New Zealand Chinese Language Week, which will launch on a national scale for the first time from September 7-13, more Hamiltonians will be inspired to learn a second language, and grow their understanding of the Chinese language and culture.

Already Sarah and Zhixia have been encouraged by support from local Chinese community groups. More than nine different groups are contributing to the week and 10 events are planned.

Some of the events in Hamilton during New Zealand Chinese Language Week include free cultural performances, cultural activities such as Chinese crafts and Taichi, and language lessons. Members of the public can find more information about New Zealand Language Week and the events in Hamilton at the official website nzclw.com, or visit the Facebook page Chinese Language Week - Hamilton 2015.