Leadership Network members
discuss learning an Asian language

Despite growing awareness of the importance of learning a second language, over the past ten years New Zealand has seen a 29 percent drop in secondary school students learning an Asian language.

In 2015, 4,316 students were learning Chinese (up from 1,481 in 2005) and 10,843 were learning Japanese (down from 19,689 in 2005). Statistics show the only other Asian language currently being studied in New Zealand at secondary level is Korean, with 48 students enrolled in 2015. 

In the videos below, three of the Foundation's Leadership Network members discuss why they chose to study an Asian language, provide tips on learning a language and discuss how learning a second language has benefitted them.

Learning Japanese and te reo Māori - Will Flavell

Leadership Network member Will Flavel took up learning Japanese after becoming interested in the language and culture through hosting a Japanese exchange student while at Green High School, Auckland. In this video he describes how learning Japanese has benefited him and how having studies Japanese helped him when he decided to learn Te Reo at university.

Learning Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) - Chris Henderson

Leadership Network member Chris Henderson became interested in learning Asian languages after he won an AFS scholarship to live in Malaysia for a year during his final year of high school. On returning to New Zealand, he decided he would turn his attentions to learning Bahasa Indonesia, a close relative of the Malaysian language. 

Chris is a project leader with Cognition, a New Zealand based education consultancy. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Education with a focus on international development and educational leadership at the University of Sydney.

Some statistics:

  • According to Ministry of Education figures, no students currently study Indonesian at secondary school in New Zealand. 
  • Indonesia is New Zealand's closest Asian neighbour and one of the most populous countries in the world with about 250 million people.
  • It is the world’s 16th largest economy and is projected to be the World's seventh largest economy by 2030.
  • Total trade between New Zealand and Indonesia in 2014 was about NZ$1.8 billion. 

Learning Mandarin Chinese - Nathalie Harrington

At the age of eight, Leadership Network member Nathalie Harrington moved with her mother to Liuyang city in the Hunan province of China. There she attended a local school and by the time she returned to New Zealand aged 12 was fluent for a child of her age. 

On returning to New Zealand, Nathalie continued to study Mandarin at University. Now 24 years old, she works at Russell McVeagh law firm in Wellington.

Some statistics:

  • At the time of the 2013 Census, the Chinese New Zealander population stood at approximately 171,000. This represented a 16 percent increase from the 2006 Census.
  • According to Statistics New Zealand, students learning Chinese at primary school reached  52,669  in July 2016. This represents an increase of more than 60% over the 2015 figure of 32,896.
  • Mandarin Chinese is one of the few languages seeing an increase in students. However, in 2016, only about 4,700 students were studying Mandarin at secondary level, an increase of 436 students on 2015.
  • China is New Zealand's biggest export market with about NZ$10 billion exported in 2014. 
  • About 378,000 Chinese tourists visited New Zealand last year - the second most of any nation after Australia.