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Seven in ten Kiwis want Mandarin in schools: NZ China Council survey

September 24, 2018


69% of New Zealanders say Mandarin is one of the most useful foreign languages schools can teach, according to research from the New Zealand China Council.

The 2018 Perceptions of China Monitor ranked Mandarin highest among foreign languages favoured by Kiwis, followed by Japanese (40%), Spanish and French (both 29%).

Executive Director Stephen Jacobi says interest in learning Mandarin is surging as opportunities for New Zealanders who can speak the language grow.

“In addition to English and Te Reo, learning a foreign language like Mandarin can be of huge benefit. There are now Kiwis working in China across a wide range of sectors, from craft beer and music to TV and documentary filmmaking.

“China is not just a market for us to export our goods and services. It’s a country where more and more Kiwis are forging careers, travelling and building friendships, and language is central to that,” Mr Jacobi says.

New Zealand Chinese Language Week, starting today, aims to bridge the linguistic and cultural knowledge gap that exists between China and New Zealand.

“We support New Zealand Chinese Language Week and hope Kiwis from all walks of life get involved. We know Kiwis are interested in China, our research shows 46% of New Zealanders would like to visit China, while 10% have visited in the past,” Mr Jacobi says.

Figures from the Ministry of Education show more than 70,000 New Zealanders are now studying Mandarin at Primary and Secondary level. The number of learners has almost doubled from 37,000 in 2015.

Mr Jacobi says while the topline figures are impressive, real challenges remain for New Zealand schools that want to offer Mandarin learning.

“Sourcing and funding qualified Chinese teachers remains a core issue for many schools. We also need to ensure learning is sustained beyond the primary level so students can gain fluency and confidence,” Mr Jacobi says.

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