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Chinese learning kicks off in Gisborne

February 9, 2017

This article originally appeared in the Gisborne Herald

Students at nine Gisborne schools are about to benefit from the introduction of Mandarin by three teachers from China. Tang Bin, Long Yuning and Bai Hong were welcomed at Kaiti School yesterday by students, principals and deputy principals from several Gisborne schools.

“You are enabling adults of the future to open doors,” said Mayor Meng Foon at the pohiri.

“China has been our major trading partner for many years and now is New Zealand’s second-largest trading partner,” he told The Gisborne Herald last year. Many in Tairawhiti are trading products with China, from manuka honey, apples, kiwifruit and squash to wine, meat, wool and wood.

“Having our young people able to speak Chinese or any language would give our firms, and our region, a strategic advantage.”

Learning Mandarin would help elevate Gisborne and East Coast children into the future, he said yesterday. He joined the teachers in singing in Mandarin the 1970s hit The Moon Represents My Heart.

The three women will teach Mandarin at Gisborne schools for one year. Tang Bin will teach at Kaiti, Ilminster and Waikirikiri schools, Long Yuning at Gisborne Central, St Mary’s Catholic Primary and Makaraka School, while Bai Hong will teach at Campion College, Gisborne Girls’ High and Lytton High School.

“I am happy to meet you and to teach you, and I hope you can teach me how to sing Maori songs and how to speak Maori,” Tang Bin told the students.

The teachers are three of 144 selected to teach Mandarin in schools around the country, said Victoria University’s Confucius Institute chairman Tony Browne. People selected for the programme do not have New Zealand teaching qualifications but were recruited from top universities in China and have a good understanding of English. They will work with local teachers in the classroom.

“The selection process is very comprehensive. We are delighted our programme has grown. This is the first time we have had anyone in Gisborne. Meng Foon got the school principals together and drove this.”

The number of Chinese visitors to New Zealand outstrips other countries. The number of Chinese people living in New Zealand is growing, as is trade with China, so having some understanding of Chinese culture is of great importance to the New Zealand economy, Mr Browne says.

All foreign languages spoken in New Zealand are in decline except for Chinese.

“Learning languages is also a good academic discipline. If you have two or three languages, your horizons broaden.”

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