When did you start learning Chinese and what inspired you to take up the language?
My parents have always emphasised that learning other languages is the best way to try and learn more about the world. They put in Chinese lessons when I was five! I picked back up learning Chinese in year 11 after being inspired by YouTube videos of foreigners speaking Chinese. I wanted to be able to make new friends like them!
Tell us about your Chinese language learning journey. What has been the most unexpected or rewarding part of the experience?
My Chinese language journey has been very long and along the way, there were times when I didn’t feel interested anymore. I think the most rewarding part has been seeing how I have come a long way from where I started. If I hadn’t persevered through learning difficulties, I wouldn’t have had such amazing opportunities!
What opportunities have opened up for you as a result of your Chinese speaking ability?
This Chinese Bridge Speech competition is one of the opportunities I never could have imagined myself doing before, let alone succeeding in! I used to be so shy and didn't talk much but learning Chinese has really changed that. You have to speak a lot to improve your Chinese so I have become so much more comfortable talking in both Chinese and English.
What do you like most about the Chinese culture?
I love Chinese festivals! I find it super interesting to see all of the traditions and superstitions that have been passed down through so many generations. The Auckland Lantern Festival has always been something my family goes to. It is really fun to eat great food and also look at all the beautiful lanterns to learn more about Chinese culture.
What are the most striking differences between Chinese and Kiwi culture?
I think a really striking difference is what is considered normal when communicating in each culture. In Kiwi culture, it is seen as polite to accept a compliment proudly but in Chinese culture, this would be very rude! Kiwis are more direct and open with what they say but Chinese people prefer to subtly say things to try and be polite.
Why do you think other New Zealanders should learn Chinese?
It’s really important for everyone to try and understand different cultures to be more accepting of other people. A lot of Chinese people are moving to New Zealand so it is an excellent opportunity for Kiwis to try and welcome them here by learning a little of their language. Being a global citizen and connecting with communities across the world is a major benefit of learning Chinese. You broaden your horizons when you learn Chinese and expand your potential!
Do you have any tips for anyone thinking about taking up Chinese?
My number one tip is to try and find an environment where you can practice speaking with other people. This is best done in real life like in a Chinese classroom or trying to talk with some Chinese friends. If you never end up practising talking out loud. you will struggle when it comes to understanding others! If it is hard to find people in real life, there are a lot of online communities where Chinese native speakers are happy to help you practice your Chinese and correct you. There is always a way to practice more!