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Chinese Language Week: Kiwi teen gets teeth into Mandarin

Kamo teen Nathan Mitchell has been learning how to speak Mandarin for the last six years. And with New Zealand in Chinese Language Week, he’s urging others to give Mandarin – the official language of China – a go. He said he had wanted to learn the language for a long time before he actually started. “The culture was something I was really interested in.”

The 16-year-old started learning Mandarin at the beginning of 2012 with a private tutor, who suggested going to the Whangarei Chinese Language School. He attended the school for about four years, before his level was higher than they catered for. He is still working with his private tutor, Lijie Zhang. The Kamo High School student said the language school was great, in addition to the language he learnt poetry and songs and had opportunities to perform at festivals. He said Mandarin was a tonal language and it was quite hard to get past at the beginning.

Mr Mitchell said he was learning to write and read as well as being able to understand and speak Mandarin. The teen has received a language immersion award from AFS and is looking forward to spending six months in China or another Mandarin speaking country next year. Mr Mitchell said he would recommend learning Chinese to others.

“It’s a really amazing culture and a really long history behind it. It’s a language that’s becoming more and more important.”

He said people were really interested when they found out he could speak in Chinese and often tried to get him to speak it. Mr Mitchell said he was fairly fluent – he could speak and hold a conversation – and believed it would stand him in good stead for the future. “Definitely in a career that I choose, it will be a good skill to have.” He is studying Mandarin by correspondence as one of his subjects at school.

“It’s something I enjoy. It helps me to connect with many more people than I would with only English.”

Chinese Language Week is running until Sunday.

One of the language school’s founders, Xia Guo wants to encourage more people to come along. The school has 12 to 15 children whose parents are Chinese and want them to learn the language. She said learning the language would help anybody who wanted to go to China, either for travel or business. To find out more contact Xia Guo on 094356969 or


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