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Giving Chinese language and culture a go

Mission Heights Junior College students have been enjoying Chinese Language Week activities.

New Zealand has been celebrating its second Chinese Language Week.

Schools, universities, libraries and businesses across the country have been promoting Chinese learning through events ranging from workshops on calligraphy and basic Mandarin greetings, to Peking Opera performances.

"It's about encouraging more non-Chinese New Zealanders to have a go at learning Chinese and seeks to bridge the cultural and linguistic knowledge gap between China and NZ," says Jeff Johnstone, a trustee for Chinese Language Week.

"We want to raise the awareness of non-Chinese New Zealanders about the benefits of learning Chinese."

Participating East Auckland schools have included Mission Heights Junior College, Howick Intermediate, Bucklands Beach Primary and Macleans College.

Students have been involved in calligraphy, traditional Chinese games, making and cooking dumplings, and dance shows.

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Mission Heights Junior College had a special Chinese Day on Wednesday, when all students had a chance to learn about Chinese language and culture through calligraphy, quizzes, games and trying on costumes.

"We are really valuing Mandarin as the language of the future," says Melanie Kindley, deputy principal of the college. 

It has made Mandarin lessons compulsory for Year 7 and 8 students this year.

Juliet Gao, a Mandarin teacher at the school, believes it provides an opportunity for young people to be "exposed to Chinese culture, to immerse and celebrate".

"It's a chance for Chinese students to be proud of themselves. Not all of the Chinese students have the opportunity to shine. Now they have the chance to be a leader."

Gao says they're lucky to be one of the schools receiving funding from the Asia New Zealand Foundation to hold events.

Chinese Language Week project manager Gretchen Leuthart​ says: "We hope it will be an annual fixture as more cities, regions and communities get behind to support it. 

"We want to keep it going. Chinese is the fourth-largest ethnic speaking group in New Zealand. Our aim is to be as big as Maori Language Week."

Many free resources are provided at nzclw.com for people interested in learning Chinese, as well as schools keen to incorporate Mandarin into their curriculum.

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