Japanese language exponent awarded

Source: Massey University

Dr Penny Shino receieves her award from the Ambassador of Japan to New Zealand, Mr Hiroyasu Kobayashi.

She was among the first generation to learn Japanese at secondary school in New Zealand – now Dr Penny Shino has been recognised for her outstanding work teaching and inspiring the next generation.

Dr Shino received the Japanese Ambassador’s Award recently at a special ceremony held at the Ambassador’s residence in Wellington. The commendation was “in recognition of her distinguished service in contributing to the deepening of mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and New Zealand.” 

She was one of six recipients and the only one from the university sector. Two other recipients were her former distance students. 

As a teen, she was interested in foreign languages and had already studied French and Latin. “When the chance arose to take up Japanese in the sixth form (Year 12) I jumped at the opportunity.”

While the rarity and “exoticism” of Japanese was part of the appeal, she was; “totally entranced by the sheer beauty and stylishness of Japanese words. I still feel that way – the Japanese writing system further fuelled my fascination. I really just got hooked on it.”

The opportunity to learn Japanese back then also reflected New Zealand’s increasing interest in Japan, after Expo ’70 in Osaka, and the trade boost between Japan and New Zealand when the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community. “Japan was experiencing rapid economic growth, rather like China today,” Dr Shino says. “At the same time Massey had started offering Japanese and my teacher of Japanese at school [Keith McGill] had been in one of the first classes at Massey. So learning Japanese at school was also my first link with Massey.”

At the University of Auckland, she majored in Japanese and French, enjoying both. A short study trip to Japan at the end of her second year tipped the balance in favour of Japanese, followed by a two-year government scholarship to Japan after she graduated. 

Dr Shino spent six months studying Japanese at the Osaka University of Foreign Languages (Osaka Gaikokugo Daigaku, now part of the University of Osaka) and 18 months researching 10th century classical Japanese poetry at Nara Women’s University (Nara Joshi Daigaku), for her Masters.

“Although I spend most of my time these days teaching modern Japanese, my real love is for classical Japanese language and culture,” she says.

Her research in Japan coincided with marrying her Japanese husband. She taught English at a school, privately, and to company employees, but her focus was to help her husband establish himself as an artist, specialising in teabowls and ceramics for the Japanese tea ceremony. “We built his traditional kiln together in the mountains of Nara prefecture, living in an old farm house without electricity, plumbing or a bath. Except for the sub-zero winters it was an idyllic existence and I could see all the flowers and wildlife figuring in the old poetry on my doorstep.”

Returning home after three years with a baby on the way, she did some tutoring and embarked on a PhD analysing poetry by a fifteenth century Zen monk, taking up a lectureship at Massey in the process. She is currently researching the same poet’s travel diary.

Spreading the word in Japanese

As well as convenving Massey’s Japanese language programme from her base in the School of Humanities on the Manawatū campus, she is deeply involved in the initiatives of Japanese Studies Aotearoa New Zealand. It was established by a group of academics from tertiary Japanese programmes at a symposium she organised at Massey in 2013. Dr Shino was elected inaugural president and is now in her second term. 

In this role, she has organised symposia for academics as well as workshops for school teachers of Japanese, in cooperation with the Sasakawa Fellowship Fund for Japanese language education. With colleagues across the land, she has worked hard to maintain and raise the profile of Japanese in New Zealand; “at a time when interest in language learning is facing a number of obstacles, not least of all a perverse and deeply-ingrained mentality that English is the only language we need.

“It’s my hope that out of the tragedy of the Christchurch attacks, New Zealanders will realise the urgency and importance of learning more about and respecting other cultures, and the role of language learning.”

Japanese more accessible in internet age

Dr Shino says students today; “have a very different relationship to Japan and Japanese than we did as students. As a student I had virtually no awareness of Japanese popular culture; students today are huge fans and highly knowledgeable, mainly thanks to the Internet.”

She is delighted that this year, enrolments in first-year Japanese – offered at Auckland, Manawatu and via distance – are “unprecedented” even when compared with the boom years of Japanese studies in the 1990s, when Japan was the most popular the foreign language. Dr Shino thinks the Rugby World Cup in Japan this year, and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year, may have generated heightened awareness and publicity of Japan – and this surge in interest is also the focus of her MURF-funded study.

This positive trend has prompted Massey to launch a Japanese ‘nanocourse’ outside the conventional qualification structures, to be offered online later this year. 

“The course will serve the needs of athletes, their support crews, other professionals and family members travelling to Japan for the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics and Paralympics, teaching a little practical basic Japanese language alongside some cultural orientation, to make the experience in Japan as enjoyable, comfortable and fulfilling as possible,” she says.

When it comes to Japanese and jobs, she says the market is very different today, with more diverse opportunities. While few graduate with a specific career in mind (except the small group seeking traditional roles in teaching, academia, diplomacy or translation/interpreting), she says Japanese gives any graduate a competitive edge in a range of jobs and for this reason many students study Japanese alongside a more vocational or professional qualification, such as Business, Aviation Studies or Sports Management, completing Japanese as a second major, a minor, or even two or three elective Japanese courses. 

“Job opportunities are finite for students majoring in Japanese alone, but innumerable for those with a reasonable level of Japanese linguistic and cultural competency, and the transferable skills which the study of a second language confers.”


Annual Report 2018 highlights EIT’s strong performance

Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

16 mins ago

EIT has released its Annual Report for 2018 today, highlighting a year of growth from one of New Zealand’s leading institutes of technology.

The report features strong educational performance with a 94 percent student programme satisfaction rate and an 84 percent course completion rate at Level 4 and above.

In 2018 EIT registered the highest number of students in its history with 4,794 equivalent full-time students (EFTS) and 10,325 individual students in total, 1000 more compared to 2017.

More domestic students than ever before chose to study where it suited them, including more online learning and studying in remote community locations and at regional learning centres. A new expanded regional learning centre in Hastings was opened in 2018 and has become an important place of delivery. A map in the report highlights the extensive off-campus delivery outreach EIT has within its communities, such as on farms and marae.

“EIT had another very strong and high performing year across multiple fronts, this, at a time when many institutions in the tertiary sector have been struggling,” says chief executive, Chris Collins. Despite the down turn in student numbers elsewhere, the student numbers at EIT have grown in both domestic (EFTS 4,122 up from 3,999) and international students numbers (EFTS 672 up from 519).

Alongside growth in student numbers, EIT is financially strong, with net assets of $ 152 million and no debt. Our campuses and regional learning centres compare favourably in the sector.  Over the past five years government funding has fallen from 62 to 57 percent of revenue. Despite the size of this challenge EIT reported a net surplus once again, albeit small. Mr Collins noted that in 44 years EIT has never made a loss.

The report also documents EIT’s staff supporting priority learners such as Māori, Pasifika and under 25-year-olds, including NEET youth (not in education, employment, or training). Achievement for Māori students was strong and rates have hit new record levels. In 2018, half of EIT’s domestic equivalent full-time students were Māori, and in Tairāwhiti, 76 percent, one of the highest levels of Māori participation in the NZ tertiary education sector.  

The report notes EIT’s strong collaboration with other New Zealand ITPs. Furthermore it provides an overview of the broad variety of applied research for industry which is carried out at EIT.

The report also covers EIT’s other strong links with local industry which ensured that once again students in 2018 were offered more work placements, internships and opportunities to learn “outside the classroom”. At the same time the active collaboration between EIT, business, community and industry helped in developing an array of new innovative programmes and pathways.

“It is the staff and network of community, business and industry support which makes EIT the success it is today,” says Mr Collins.


Overwhelming response for EIT’s Taste of Cultures Day

Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

11 mins ago

Indian samosas, Mexican empanadas, Turkish falafels, kiwi pavlovas. Visitors were spoilt for choice at EIT’s annual Taste of Cultures event on Wednesday. Hundreds of people took the opportunity to get a taste of fresh street food from all over the world.

There were 21 stalls, 14 ran by EIT’s diploma in culinary art students, six stalls from local restaurants and a food truck that sold Brazilian street food. All the meals were between two and four dollars.

Glenn Fulcher, Head of School of Tourism and Hospitality, was wowed by the overwhelming response. “What an awesome audience,” Glenn said, “It’s a great chance for our cookery students to prepare for large numbers in a commercial environment, then set up and serve to hundreds of customers under real industry pressure.”

Fittingly the event coincided with the International Day of Happiness with this year’s theme “Happier Together”, focusing of what we have in common, rather than what divides us. Being so, the Taste of Cultures event was an opportunity for everyone to embrace and acknowledge the diversity of the campus and to celebrate the richness of many nationalities and religions that are represented at EIT.

Every stall had put a sign up with the word “Hello” in the respective language.

The event started with a short vigil to remember the victims of Christchurch’s mosque shootings. “Above all things, hold firmly to love,” is the message that was spread. EIT’s School of Tourism and Hospitality will gift 500 dollars of the proceeds of the food sold at their stalls to the victims of the mosque attacks.


Opinion: Protecting religious diversity in NZ after Christchurch

Source: Massey University

On Friday night, the Prime Minister Jacinda Arden argued that the very reason that our nation was targeted by a terrorist event was because of its diversity. She noted that New Zealand has “200 ethnicities, 160 languages, and amongst that diversity we share common values.” 

The language focused solely on ethnic diversity and did not mention religion or religious diversity. This follows a general trend occurring across the country where religious diversity has been collapsed into broader discussions of bi-culturalism, ethnic diversity and superdiversity. 

Across New Zealand universities, the study of religion has rapidly fallen into decline. This may be evidence of the decline of the humanities, or perhaps it is an assumption that secularization and the belief that religion is receding in importance becoming a dominant paradigm within our universities and views of New Zealand community? Regardless, the result has been that our university’s lack the expertise to talk to the New Zealand state and citizenry about the contemporary challenges occurring around religious diversity. My argument is that this lack of emphasis on religion is highly problematic for understanding social cohesion and healing after Christchurch. The critical study of the historical, cultural and philosophical dimensions of religions – in schools and universities – counters ignorance and helps to foster tolerance and understanding.

My longitudinal research has clearly showed over the last 50 years, that while Christian belief has generally been in decline, the diversity of religious belief has multiplied across New Zealand. Buddhist and Muslim communities have become significant features of our religious landscape and in our cities. These religious communities draw membership from a broad variety of ethnic groups drawn from across South East Asia and the Middle East. Social cohesion and interfaith dialogue across our religious groups does occur but it receives little attention. 

Data from my 2008 research still underpins the New Zealand Government’s Statement of religious diversity released in 2009. The Statement’s data has not been updated for almost 15 years. The statement of religious diversity acknowledges our nations’ religious diversity and it offers a commitment to New Zealanders, of whatever faith or ethical belief, to feel free to practice their beliefs in peace and within the law and to respect the right of others to do the same. 

Crucially, the Statement does not set out to manage religious diversity, which is what we see occurring across Europe. It assumes that our communities will live in relative harmony and any minor incidents of disharmony will be addressed through a negotiation of human rights, religious law and cultural tradition.This leads me to ask the questions, have we become complacent about our diversity?Should we reconsider the notion that the academic study of religion was a 19th and 20th century phenomenon?

In the Christchurch attack, the unifying target was religion rather than ethnicity. Islamic belief is practiced across ethnic groups and it was this belief of a broad Muslim community that was attacked. This was a far-right terror attack of hate against a religious community that was also tied into broader issues of immigration and racism. 

Last weekend, I spent two funerary days in the local Cambodian Theravada Buddhist monastery in Wellington. Across New Zealand there are religious communities who are very similar to those in Christchurch and they are very concerned about the consequences for them. Across New Zealand, these multi-cultural and religiously diverse communities will be looking to the state for reassurance and protection of their safety and participation in civil society.

Proactive approach needed to ensure religious diversity is safe

Dangerously, the Christchurch attack has two consequences for thinking about religious diversity and the relationships between religious communities and the state. Firstly, State management of religion targets a religious group that represents a set of vulnerable New Zealanders and who have carefully managed their community to not fall prey to Islamic extremism. Secondly, it sets in place a responsibility for the government to consider whether it needs to set in place structures to manage religious diversity more explicitly. If this is the case, New Zealand’s relatively laissez faireapproach of the Statement of Religious Diversity and a lack of sociological focus on religion will no longer be sufficient. 

When it comes to State management of religion, across Europe we have seen that a lack of careful understanding of religious belief and practice has led to all sorts of problems around isolation, exclusion. This has led to a variety of social challenges and the risk of radicalization –all of which might lead to future forms of social tension and violence.

Vital for healing after Christchurch will be a careful engagement with experience of managing religious diversity. It will be necessary to think about social mechanisms of reconciling religious communities to the broader society. Goodwill will need to be fostered in our streets and suburbs. 

All of our nation’s vibrant population need to feel safe. Our Government will need to be sensitive and nuanced in this religious space. Particularly, our security agencies who will be tasked with increased prevention and surveillance responsibilities after this attack. Inevitably, these agencies will be at the forefront of managing this situation, which is inherently dangerous because it securitizes the management of religion. 

A key question will be, after the decline of the study of religion in New Zealand, how will we develop a sensitive and informed discussion and language of religious diversity where increased state management and community cohesion can function together to renew our nation as a safe and harmonious place that accepts all people no matter what they belief?

Dr William Hoverd is a Senior Lecturer at the Massey University Centre for Defence and Security Studies. A sociologist of religion by training, he is an expert in religious diversity and New Zealand national security.


Opinion: Mosque shootings – politics of hate ends our innocence

Source: Massey University

The mosque shootings in Christchurch marked Friday, March 15 as one of New Zealand’s darkest days, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

As New Zealand police continue to respond to events following shootings at two mosques in central Christchurch, the national security threat level has been lifted to high. Mosques across New Zealand have been closed and police are asking people to refrain from visiting.

So far, 49 people have been killed. According to media reports, 41 people were fatally shot at the Masjid Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue; others died at a second mosque nearby. 

Four people, three men and a woman, have been taken into custody in connection with the shootings. One man in his late 20s has been charged with murder.

In the hours after the attacks, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern made it clear this was a terrorist attack of “extraordinary and unprecedented violence” that had no place in New Zealand. 

She said extremist views were not welcome and contrary to New Zealand values, and did not reflect New Zealand as a nation.

It is one of New Zealand’s darkest days. Many of the people affected by this act of extreme violence will be from our refugee and migrant communities. New Zealand is their home. They are us.

She is right. Public opinion surveys such as the Asia New Zealand Foundation annual surveys of attitudes tend to show that a majority of New Zealanders are in favour of diversity and see immigration, in this case from Asia, as providing various benefits for the country. 

But extremist politics, including the extreme nationalist and white supremacist politics that appear to be at the core of this attack on Muslims, have been part of our community for a long time.

History of white supremacy

I completed research in the UK on the National Front and British National Party in the late 1970s. When I returned to New Zealand, I was told explicitly, including by authorities that were charged with monitoring extremism, that we did not have similar groups here. But it did not take me long to discover quite the opposite. 

Through the 1980s, I looked at more than 70 local groups that met the definition of being extreme right wing. The city that hosted many of these groups was Christchurch. 

They were a mixture of skinhead, neo-nazi and extreme nationalist groups. Some were traditional in their ideology, with a strong underpinning of anti-Semitism and a belief in the supremacy of the “British race”. Others inverted the arguments of Māori nationalism to argue for separatism to keep the “white race pure”.

And yes, there was violence. The 1989 shooting of an innocent bystander, Wayne Motz, in Christchurch by a skinhead who then walked to a local police kiosk and shot himself. The pictures of the internment showed his friends giving nazi salutes. In separate incidents, a Korean backpacker and a gay man were killed for ideological reasons.

Things have changed. The 1990s provided the internet and then social media. And events such as the September 11 terror attacks shifted the focus – anti-Semitism was now supplemented by Islamophobia. 

Hate speech online

The earthquakes and subsequent rebuild have significantly transformed the ethnic demography of Christchurch and made it much more multicultural – and more positive about that diversity. It is ironic that the this terrorism should take place in this city, despite its history of earlier far right extremism. 

We tend not to think too much about the presence of racist and white supremacist groups, until there is some public incident like the desecration of Jewish graves or a march of black-shirted men (they are mostly men) asserting their “right to be white”. Perhaps, we are comfortable in thinking, as the prime minister has said, they are not part of our nation.

Last year, as part of a project to look at hate speech, I looked at what some New Zealanders were saying online. It did not take long to discover the presence of hateful and anti-Muslim comments. It would be wrong to characterise these views and comments as widespread, but New Zealand was certainly not exempt from Islamophobia. 

Every so often, it surfaced, such as in the attack on a Muslim woman in a Huntly carpark.

An end to collective innocence

It became even more obvious during 2018. The Canadian YouTuber, Stefan Molyneux, sparked a public debate (along with Lauren Southern) about his right to free speech. Much of the public comment seemed to either overlook or condone his extreme views on what he regards as the threat posed by Islam.

And then there was the public protest in favour of free speech that occurred at the same time, and the signs warning us about the arrival of Sharia law or “Free Tommy” signs. The latter refers to Tommy Robinson, a long-time activist (cf English Defence League leader) who was sentenced to prison – and then released on appeal – for contempt of court, essentially by targeting Muslims before the courts.

There is plenty of evidence of local Islamophobic views, especially online. There are, and have been for a long time, individuals and groups who hold white supremacist views. They tend to threaten violence; seldom have they acted on those views. There is also a naivety amongst New Zealanders, including the media, about the need to be tolerant towards the intolerant.

There is not necessarily a direct causation between the presence of Islamophobia and what has happened in Christchurch. But this attack must end our collective innocence.

No matter the size of these extremist communities, they always represent a threat to our collective well-being. Social cohesion and mutual respect need to be asserted and continually worked on.

Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley is the Pro Vice-Chancellor for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, with research expertise on New Zealand’s race relations, immigration and population. 


Designs on China thanks to PM Asia scholarship

Source: Massey University

Visual Communication Design student Sophie Douglas (second from left) with Massey and AUT students in Hong Kong.

Internships with companies in Mainland China’s massive fashion and clothing industry have given Massey University design students some fascinating insights into cultural aspects of the business, thanks to a Prime Minister’s Scholarship to Asia.

Four students from the College of Creative Arts in Wellington were part of a group of nine New Zealand design students to spend four weeks in Hong Kong and China in January. They visited design education faculties in Hong Kong before travelling to Guangzhou, (Mainland China), where they observed at close range the workings of the ‘Made in China’ clothing phenomenon.

The trip was funded through a successful joint application for the Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia last year by internship company, Eden Travel International (ETI) in partnership with Massey University and AUT, to support students to complete a four-week Design Internship Programme.

Massey Visual Communication Design student Sophie Douglas says the scholarship; “opened my eyes to just how different it can be to work outside of New Zealand. I had to learn new customs, some of which were completely opposite to those I knew. 

“I was able to gain an in-depth understanding of Chinese culture and what differentiates it with New Zealand culture,” she says.

While spending time at the School of Design at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Sophie was impressed by its PolyU SDWorks – a platform assisting students to launch their ideas into the real world, understanding optimization, issues with manufacturing companies and customers’ feedback, and giving them the opportunity to turn their projects into commercial products.

The PMSA students enjoying a taste of Hong Kong

Internships open doors to Asian market

Among noticeable differences with home was the presence of camping mattresses set up on the floor of the classrooms (in Hong Kong) for students to sleep when they worked through the night. “I realised later that this was reflective of the work ethic and culture in Hong Kong and China. Of course, we are sometimes working through the night, but it is always discouraged by our lecturers,” she says.

China was, she says; “a bit of a culture shock arriving and trying to navigate the station in Guangzhou with nobody speaking English.

“I believe that the most effective way to learn about the culture is to be immersed in it, and that’s what we have done,” says Sophie, who did an internship with Fotorama. She hopes this new understanding will help to open doors to work more easily in Asia in the future, adding that the experience has helped her “grow, both as a person and as a designer, more than I thought possible in such a short amount of time.”

Design and fashion students taking part in the PMSA experiencing Chinese traditional dress styles.

Mixing with the locals a key to cultural knowledge

Fynn Stevens, a fashion design student, recalls her early morning walk to an internship placement at CT (China Textile) Traders in Guangzhou. “I wanted to see the morning patterns of the people living around me. I ate locally, saw and followed trends, followed crowds, learnt what I could of the language, learnt cultural traditions as they came, asked many, many questions. 

“Locals took interest in my desire to learn more about their ways of life – they were happy to help, to translate for me, to make do with my gestures and sign language when language wasn’t an option,” she says. “I learnt about the people by observing and listening.”  

During her internship, Fynn had the chance to sit in on several meetings with a New Zealand start-up brand as they planned their first clothing launch, marketing strategies, range planning, campaign shoot, fabric sampling, and price pointing.

She says his experience in China; “definitely developed me as a global citizen. I saw I lived on a globe with many others. I saw that there are more ways of life than my own. I felt small, and yet a part of something much larger than I can imagine.” 

AUT design student Caitlin Hogan says her immersion experience in Hong Kong helped her to appreciate and understand differences “much more than just being a tourist.”

It was also “eye-opening in terms of how different cultures work, learn, live and play” – something she feels is important to realise as a designer. “Over our working lives we will be exposed to many people from different backgrounds and with the help of technology we’ll likely be working on global projects.” 

The impetus for the trip was for the students to be exposed to an international working environment as part of the Massey University Global Citizen programme, which provides a platform for international opportunities, says Craig Lyons, a Senior Advisor, Student Mobility, International Relations Office.

Related articles

Destination China with PM’s Asia scholarships
Massey students celebrate Prime Minister’s Asia scholarships
Massey students win new Prime Minister’s Asia scholarships


EIT’s School of Viticulture & Wine kicks into higher gear

Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

3 mins ago

Shaun La Franco had always been passionate about wine. Having gained a Graduate Diploma in Oenology at EIT, he then worked in different wineries throughout New Zealand and in France. Four years ago he returned to EIT as a lecturer and has recently taken over managing the winery.

He oversees all the operations happening there, wine making, research, bottling, looking after school groups or organising industry events. “EIT has just bought a lot of new equipment to make the winery look and operate like a commercial winery, just a smaller version of it,” explains Shaun.

His counterpart Tim Creagh, on the other hand, has worked at EIT as a Viticulture lecturer close to 20 years and has just taken over management of the vineyard. “It’s a great challenge,” he acknowledges.

The vineyard is organic which excludes the use of synthetic chemicals but involves a lot of manual weeding. “The consumers have started to demand not only organic produce but also sustainable farming methods. That’s why we decided to run EIT’s vineyard organically,” says Tim.

There are 20 varieties of grapes growing on campus. The first two rows have been named “fruit salad” with every second vine being different. “That’s how we can showcase to the students how different vines and grapes are,” explains Tim. 

New in the lecturing team, Chandre Honeth has made a fresh start at EIT. Chandre just moved from South Africa to Hawke’s Bay with her husband and feels at home already. She graduated with a Doctorate in Viticulture from the University of Stellenbosch where she carried out various research and assisted in teaching. “When I first came to EIT, I was surprised to see how beautiful the campus is. It looks like a park,” says Chandre.

Her new colleague Jane Qin shifted from China to New Zealand in 2013. She completed a Master of Horticultural Science (majoring in Viticulture and Oenology) from Lincoln University. Jane has been lecturing wine science and working as a lab technician and a cellar hand in the South Island before moving to Hawke’s Bay to teach at EIT.

Wine science lecturer Victor Ye is an EIT newbie as well. Born and raised in China, he attended high school in Christchurch. He then gained a Master in Food Science from Otago University and is finishing a PHD in Wine Chemistry and Food Engineering at Lincoln where he was lecturing and performing research too.

Chandre, Jane and Victor are looking forward to kicking off the term. “The classes are small which will facilitate interaction and discussion with students,“ they say. “An advantage of studying at EIT is that students get to go out into the vineyards and wineries and gain real work experience.”


Beijing trip boosts fluency for Chinese learners

Source: Massey University

Massey Chinese language students in Beijing visiting the Summer Palace

A six-week study trip to China funded by a Prime Minister’s Scholarship to Asia (PMSA) has given 15 Massey students a deeper appreciation that learning Mandarin is a ticket to greater cultural understanding and job opportunities in the future.

Several in the group, including a lawyer, a photographer and a finance banker, have shared their personal experiences in a video. All agree their Chinese language skills improved markedly through the immersion experience involving language classes at the prestigious Peking University (PKU), as well as field trips, cultural excursions and meeting locals during the trip last November to December.

Bachelor of Arts student Haluk Gokcen, who is majoring in Chinese, and also studying Spanish and French to fulfil his dream to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, says when he arrived in Beijing he could “hardly hold a conversation. Now, I can write text messages and speak to locals without having to use a translation app.” 

Kate Parkinson, who works in finance banking for a major bank following her Bachelor of Business Studies at Massey’s School of Business and is now completing a Graduate Diploma in Arts majoring in Chinese, says the scholarship trip “really helped to grow my confidence in using the language and understanding the social norms.”

Ukraine-born New Zealander Victoria Kirichuk, who speaks four other languages, says that as well as benefiting her Chinese language ability through the immersive experience, the trip gave her the chance to “get to know the real China.” She says the scholarship encourages people wanting to invest time in language learning and cultural engagement, so they can bring that knowledge back to New Zealand to their own communities; “and become bridge-builders between China and New Zealand.”

The scholarship, worth $112k, was awarded to the School of Humanities’ Chinese language programme, led by Dr Michael Li at the Auckland campus. He accompanied the group of mostly distance students, including some part-time students enrolled in a Humanities 200-level Special Topics course, themed around language, culture and industrial experience to count as an elective credit towards their degree study.

Massey Chinese language students (from left) Llorne Howell, Tim Cammell, Dillon Anderson and Kate Parkinson visiting the Great Wall of China.

Cultural and language exchange bodes well for future

Dr Li says there is a need for more New Zealanders to communicate and understand China in a cultural context due to the growth in trade and business connections between the two countries. “Stronger cultural, language and linguistic ties – ties that sow the seeds for long-term trade and collaborative opportunities between New Zealanders and Chinese – need to be established through language and cultural exchange and business experiences,” Dr Li says. 

Massey’s Bridging NZ and China by language learning and business experiences scholarship application provided such opportunities for New Zealand students to engage with China, he says. “For any New Zealander wishing to undertake business and cultural activities, the acquisition of Chinese Mandarin will be vital to their success. At a time when the study of languages across the university sector is in decline, Massey University sees the Prime Minister’s Scholarship to Asia programme as integral in highlighting Chinese language acquisition in New Zealand.”

The students’ programme included classes in the School of Chinese as a Second Language at Peking University, as well as cultural activities and field trips to the Great Wall of China, a tour of the Forbidden City and Olympic Centre in Beijing, Tiananmen Square, the Summer and Winter Palaces, as well as visits to Chinese dairy group Sanyuan Dairy factory and China Hi-Tech Group, which is involved in the provision of educational technology.

Associate Professor Kerry Taylor, head of the School of Humanities, says that for many decades, Massey has recognised the importance of establishing academic and commercial partnerships with key countries in Asia, particularly in the Agriculture and Environment area. In the last few years, the Institute of Agriculture and Environment of Massey has established collaborative relations with two Chinese universities – Shanghai Jiaotong University and Lanzhou University in Western China – through the New Zealand-China Tripartite Fund. In 2015, a humanities perspective was added. 

“Since that link in 2015 the School of Humanities has taken a leading role in the Massey engagement with China,” he says. “We’ve established a Joint Research Centre with Beijing Language and Culture University. This involves a major ongoing research project on Chinese language teaching mediated through technology, led by Professor Cynthia White and co-hosting a major annual conference in China on Chinese as a second language.”

The School of Humanities has also taken up a three-year commitment to teach a New Zealand history and culture paper at Peking University, and has engaged actively with its New Zealand Centre. In addition, the School has hosted two visiting Peking University professors, while three Massey staff have taken up research fellowships at Peking University. 

“The PMSA group is another important element on growing mutually beneficial links between New Zealand and China, and part of our ongoing engagement with PKU, which is generally regarded as the top university in China,” Dr Taylor says.

New Zealand statistics indicate that the trade with China has nearly tripled over the past decade, with two-way trade rising from $8.2b in the year ended June 2007 to $23b by June 2016. Annual exports to China have quadrupled while annual imports from China have doubled since June 2007.  

To find out more about studying Chinese language: https://bit.ly/2S8Z9Rn

Related articles

Know how to ‘ni hao’ – Chinese language in the Pacific
Visitors from Peking University hosted at Auckland campus
Songs, films to mark Chinese Language Week
Massey-China language centre to drive Mandarin momentum

More related articles