When did you start learning Chinese? What inspired you to take up the language?
I started learning Chinese in 2017. I wanted to understand the interesting writing and use the language as a vehicle to understand the culture.
Tell us about your Chinese language learning journey? What has been the most unexpected or rewarding part of the experience?
I went to China in 2017 and stayed for 18 months, in Shanghai and Xiamen. I came in not knowing a word and have been practicing on and off since. I was surprised how it takes a long time just to establish the basis from which to learn and improve. I knew it was a dense language but it was dense in ways I didn't expect. Like doing a 10,000 piece puzzle, it takes an incredibly long time and a lot of small parts for the image to start taking any kind of shape which can make you want to give up and cry out for mercy.
The most rewarding part has been the sounds magically starting to make sense and reading the writing. Also being able to launch a spirited but ultimately unsuccessful defense of a friend being asked to leave a BYO.
What opportunities have opened up for you as a result of your Chinese speaking ability?
Unfortunately, zero opportunities.
What do you like most about the Chinese culture?
Everyone is willing to share a drink or cigarettes with you. Also, there are also very many layers of intrigue and mystery.
What are the most striking differences between Chinese and Kiwi culture?
Kiwis are very trusting of people and circumstances that are unfamiliar to them, Chinese do a lot of homework, Chinese get drunk much quicker but can somehow keep drinking forever and Kiwis do not know how to barter.
Why do you think other New Zealanders should learn Chinese? Do you have any tips for anyone thinking of taking up the language?
It is the best way to get an understanding of the culture as well as some of Asian culture as a whole; which is something that will become more prevalent as the summer's go by. You can also read what you are ordering on some of the menus which is quite delightful.