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Te Aro School

Advice from a student

Joseph, a Year 8 student at Te Aro School in Wellington, just started learning Chinese this year.

What’s it like?

We asked Joseph what the best part about learning Chinese was.

“It’s great and not too hard. I like to write the characters, learn greetings and learning songs. I have already started learning a little French, New Zealand Sign Language and Māori. Chinese is a little harder and it’s completely new.

“The best part is the songs and activities and games we play. We play a game called happy families where you ask people who they are and who their family members are.”

The hardest part for Joseph was in learning to draw Chinese characters.

“You have to be able to draw the characters really accurate and have to remember them. You can’t cheat. Finding out what the characters say is like learning the frets on a guitar.”

Joseph has found help from some students in the class. “One knows Cantonese so has picked up Chinese quite well and helps everyone else out.”

And what was his advice to other students thinking about learning Chinese?

“Get ready for an easy but hard language. You’ll get through it fine and it’s good to learn another language.”

Advice from a teacher

Kristin Holmes, a teacher at Te Aro School in Wellington, shares her tips for teachers wanting to start or progress Chinese language learning programmes.

When it all started

Kristin began teaching Mandarin from the Hao Ministry of Education Learning Languages Series although she wasn’t initially confident about her ability to teach a language she wasn’t completely familiar with.

“The Hao kit was a good resource, but I felt I didn’t really know the language well enough. I needed to learn more and gain more confidence.”

Kristin’s confidence grew once she went on a professional development scholarship to Beijing.

Kristin has stayed committed to teaching and learning Mandarin and has taken up more professional development opportunities since she returned from China.

“After two years it would have been easy to be swayed into another language, but with ongoing professional development and taking the TPDL course, it’s meant I can keep enthused and challenged, which keeps me motivated.”


  • Be brave and don’t be afraid of not knowing. Kids don’t mind if you don’t know everything. You can learn together.
  • Use the community. You’ll find that there will be a lot of people who speak Mandarin. Find them, talk to them and ask them for support.
  • Look out for professional development opportunities – there are lots out there. It makes a big difference to your confidence and helps you hook into the Chinese community and meet people.

Advice from a principal

Tips from Bryce Coleman, Principal of Te Aro School in Wellington, for Principals looking to start Chinese language learning programmes in their own schools.

Te Aro School is very diverse and has a high number of Asian students. The school’s Mandarin programme helps bring students together and helps Asian students feel more at home.

Bryce aims to have a Chinese language assistant in the school soon and has an ultimate goal to become Confucius classroom.

Bryce says…

“The first thing to do is get buy-in from the Board and staff. There has to be strategic buy-in and staff also need to take on board a programme too.

“Resourcing a Mandarin teacher can be hard, so talk to other Principals and get a school network going so you can share resources. Also look to your community – is there a parent who could come in and work alongside the teacher?

“Stay committed and aim to keep a teacher constantly in place. If a teacher leaves, keep the momentum and get another one. Use parents if you have to.

“Be aware it will cost and be flexible – a language teacher may have to work outside their normal job scope, so provide incentives and motivation and utilise all the opportunities that are out there.”

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