More young New Zealanders should embrace the opportunity to learn Chinese, according to New Zealand China Council Executive Director Stephen Jacobi.
“Chinese Language Week is a reminder of how critical language acquisition is to developing our relationship with China. We’re very pleased to sponsor and support this initiative again in 2016.”
“We’ve made significant gains, particularly at primary level but we need to boost acquisition at secondary level and above to build on our existing ties with China,” Mr Jacobi says.
Figures from the Ministry of Education show more than 32,896 primary school students were learning Chinese in 2015, more than any other foreign language. The number of Chinese learners at secondary level was 4,316 in 2015, just 100 more than in 2014.
“Countries such as Australia have made Chinese a priority language in the curriculum. It is time New Zealand took a similar approach to growing our pool of Chinese speakers.”
Mr Jacobi says Chinese language acquisition is about more than increasing employment prospects or strengthening economic ties with China.
“China is much more than a market for our exports. Engaging with people from China is part of the everyday experience of New Zealanders. As numbers of Chinese tourists, students and settlers continue to increase, the need for New Zealanders to have Chinese language and cultural skills is only going to grow.
“There are many dimensions to the relationship, from arts and culture to science and education. It’s a country full of talented people with much to offer us, and language is the key to leveraging those opportunities,” Mr Jacobi says.