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Samuel Marsden College

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

I started learning Mandarin at a young age because my mum was a diplomat and speaks multiple languages. My parents saw the value in language lessons and we also had many opportunities to travel. I’m grateful I had that early start. Now as a Sāmoan Kiwi in my teens, I am passionate about Climate justice and activism and so I am very interested in learning many languages to spread the word about Climate Change and advocate for my Pasifika peoples.

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

Learning Chinese takes a lot of hard work and dedication, especially in the early stages. The thing that has helped me the most with learning Chinese has been having friends who are fluent Chinese speakers who are patient with me and let me practise and make mistakes with them. Some of my best friends are Chinese Kiwis and Chinese international students. I love learning from them, and sharing my Samoan culture with them too.

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

There are too many opportunities to mention! To name a few, speaking Chinese has given me the opportunity to make amazing friends at school and throughout Aotearoa, to share my message about climate change mitigation with a global audience (150K people on TikTok), to become a Chinese Language Ambassador within Aotearoa NZ, and attend the global Chinese Bridge Competition in Beijing with other regional winners from around NZ.

What do you like most about the Chinese culture?

China has a rich culture and long, fascinating history - it’s hard to choose one thing I like most! I enjoy watching Chinese movies, TV dramas and listening to Chinese HipHop. I especially love cuisine from different provinces and would like to do a food tour of the whole country one day.

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

As a Sāmoan Kiwi, I’ve noticed there are some similarities between Chinese culture and Māori and Pacific culture which I find very interesting. For example, all of these cultures value collectivism over individualism and place huge importance on family, and respect for elders.

Why do you think other New Zealanders should learn Chinese?

Learning Chinese connects you with Chinese culture, and can help you make new friends. Plus, it opens up a whole world of opportunities like travelling, studying overseas, and exciting international jobs.

Do you have any tips for anyone thinking about taking up Chinese?

There are lots of fun ways to learn - find something you enjoy. Listen to songs, watch shows, or follow vlogs focussed on your areas of interest. Even if you don’t understand all the words, you’ll learn a lot by listening. Language exchange is also a great way to learn, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

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