24-year-olds Julie (Zhu Xiaochen), Cindy, (Xing Wang) and 25-year-old Amy (Xin Gao) are teaching Mandarin to local school children and at night classes at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), with another intake beginning in the first week of May for beginners and more advanced learners.
The young women are here for a year as part of NMIT’s relationship with the Chinese Confucius Institute, teaching Mandarin as well as Chinese culture.
Julie, who majored in English at the Shandong University, says learning even a few words of Mandarin will pay off for local businesses seeking more of the Chinese tourism business in Nelson and Tasman.
“Many more Chinese people are coming here and I’m sure they will appreciate it if local people have a few words of Mandarin.”
Nelson Tasman Tourism figures show the biggest national growth market by far is from China (26.7%). More than 330,000 Chinese visitors came to New Zealand last year.
NMIT Chinese programme manager Ian Lister says education links with China are also booming. NMIT has relationships with ten Chinese universities and teaches more than 1,000 students in China.
Last year, more than 100 Chinese students studied at NMIT in New Zealand.
Now, local primary and intermediate school students are learning Mandarin as well as some Chinese culture from the Confucius Institute’s Mandarin language assistants based in Nelson.
Julie and Amy, who’ve been sharing accommodation on NMIT’s campus, have been teaching at NMIT’s evening classes as well as at many schools including Hampden Street, Central, St Josephs, Henley, Clifton Terrace and Nelson Intermediate.
The women say they’re enjoying their Nelson experience. “I’ve had a very friendly welcome here although it has been challenging to be a teacher for the first time,” says Julie. She says she hasn’t missed much from home – only her friends and parents.
Julie and Amy complete their year-long stay in July and return home. Julie is hoping to get into the film industry in promotions while Amy, who majored in urban planning, will go to Singapore to do a Master’s degree.
Cindy, who majored in teaching Chinese as a second language, will be joined later this year by three other Mandarin language assistants sponsored by the Confucius Institute.
NMIT’s Ian Lister says having the Chinese teachers in Nelson is a great opportunity for local tourist-based business to learn some Mandarin at evening classes.
“Learning Chinese is valuable for travelling to China for business or tourism but equally for learning how to greet the ever-increasing number of Chinese visitors to our region. There’s a real opportunity for smart business operators to increase their appeal to this fast-growing market.”
Find out more about Chinese Language courses offered at NMIT.