WELLINGTON, July 4 (Xinhua) -- Dressed in traditional Chinese robe, Jimah Ruland-Umata, a 17-year-old New Zealand Mauri boy, shared his Chinese learning experience during Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands Confucius Institute Conference here in Wellington on Thursday.
Jimah delivered the speech in fluent Chinese.
"I was introduced to the Chinese language during my first year of Intermediate school (Year 7). It was not easy at the very beginning because my primary focus was on expanding my vocabulary, completely ignoring the biggest challenge we all face when it comes to learning Chinese, tones. I had no idea that there were tones in the Chinese language and grasping the concept took quite a while."
Jimah is from the Rotorua Boys High school, central part of New Zealand North Island. He admitted that speaking Chinese has given him many opportunities in and outside of school. He currently works as a tour guide and translator at Tamaki Maori Village.
"I made friends with countless Chinese people and those friendships have boosted my confidence in learning Chinese. They pursue to not only learn Mandarin but also local dialects such as the dialects of Beijing, Sichuan and Cantonese." Jimah said.
"I still have a long way to go in my Chinese learning and I'm grateful for every opportunity I receive. I speak Chinese every chance I get and it makes me feel happy that I can understand a completely different culture to that of my own," He added.
Tony Browne, chairman of Confucius Institute at Victoria University of Wellington as well as a former diplomat to China, said "knowledge of China's history, its culture, its language and its people underpins the political and economic relationships that all the countries of our region have with China. The Confucius Institutes, individually and collectively, are becoming ever more important in building that knowledge and providing educational opportunities for our students. "
Blair McRae, deputy vice chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington said "hosting the Confucius Institute is an important part of our university's engagement with China. Beyond our university, our institute serves as an important vehicle for Chinese language learning and capacity building through their management of the Mandarin Language Assistants'(MLA) program, with over 50 MLAs placed across 140 schools in the lower half of the North Island."
Experts from China, Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands Confucius Institutes participated in the annual meeting.