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Why learn Chinese?

Learning a language benefits individuals, families and communities, and New Zealand as a nation.

There are a number of compelling reasons to learn Chinese. We talked to New Zealanders involved in teaching, learning and using Chinese to find why they thought New Zealand students should be learning Chinese. Here are some of the reasons.

More people speak Chinese than they do English

  • More people speak Mandarin Chinese than they do English and the number of people in the world learning Chinese is on the increase.
  • Mandarin Chinese is the most widely-spoken language in the world.
  • It’s estimated one out of every six people on earth speak Chinese; from China, Taiwan and Singapore to South East Asia, North America and Europe.

As you can see from the quick facts above, it’s no wonder that being able to speak and teach Chinese are fast becoming important skills for New Zealand students and teachers.

By learning Chinese, our students will be able to communicate with more people, more effectively. Alongside that, Chinese is likely to become increasingly useful for online communication.


“You should learn Mandarin so you can communicate with the majority of the world. Once you can do it, doors will open because people will appreciate the time and care you have taken to learn their language and culture.”

 Deborah Rattray, Facilitator, Chinese Language Foundation

China is the world’s fastest growing economy

The scale and development of China’s economy is breathtaking. New Zealand students are growing up alongside the fastest growing economy in the world, and one which is considered by many to become the biggest global market in the 21st century.

China is already one of New Zealand’s most important trading partners. The potential of the relationship is seen in the fact that in the year following the signing of the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement, two-way trade increased by 23% to reach just over $10 billion.

New Zealand students will grow up in a world where there will be business and trade opportunities for people fluent in Chinese. And Chinese speakers will likely find it easier to develop all-important relationships in business.

Learning Chinese can increase employment prospects

A New Zealand student who has a working knowledge of Chinese is likely to boost their employment prospects, particularly as more companies and organisations develop links and relationships with China. Proficiency in Chinese is likely to become an increasingly useful asset for any job seeker – and that’s for both students and teachers.

Proficient speakers of Chinese will find jobs in a variety of fields, such as business, tourism, government, education and translation. And the demand for teachers who can speak Chinese is on the increase.

Already many New Zealand organisations have active links and relationships with China; this is only likely to increase over time, opening many opportunities for Chinese speakers.

Language opens the door to culture

By learning Chinese, you can gain unique insights into the culture of one of the world’s oldest civilisations. Learning Chinese opens doors to thousands of years of history and culture, from Confucianism to cuisine or martial arts to music. It's also a way to gain an understanding of people and culture; to bridge cultural differences and engage with Chinese communities in New Zealand.

It will also expand your travel opportunities. Getting around China and Taiwan will be much easier with the language under your belt.

"Culture and language are really interlinked; if you don't speak the language you can't understand the culture. Learning Chinese for me has been an eye opening experience because I have been able to understand so much more about my own culture (Kiwi and Chinese). I have opportunities now to speak it every day if I want to, and I can move and talk amongst different communities.”
– Raewyn Ho, Facilitator, Chinese Language Foundation

Future proof yourself

Learning Chinese is becoming more popular, with Chinese language learning on the increase around the world.

In New Zealand, the number of school students learning Chinese increased 93% in the five years between 2004 and 2009.

As China becomes an increasingly important player on the global stage, so too will the importance of Chinese.


"Chinese is the language of the future. Learning Mandarin is fast becoming a fundamental skill for children living on the Pacific Rim. New Zealand graduates are not just competing with other New Zealand graduates, they’re competing with people from all around the world. China is huge and our business is growing there. We have to be able to be able to operate effectively in the Chinese environment.”

 – Gillian Eadie, General Manager, Confucius Institute

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