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New Zealand Chinese Language Week

Chinese lion statue.

Nĭ hăo!

New Zealand Chinese Language Week is held in September 2023. Dates are yet to be confirmed.  This events page offers resources and stories to help you and your students get involved in New Zealand Chinese Language Week. Useful links and ideas to support language learning and explore Chinese culture are provided.

About New Zealand Chinese Language Week

Chinese lantern.

New Zealand Chinese Language Week is a Kiwi-driven initiative launched in 2014 by Chair Jo Coughlan and Raymond Huo. NZCLW is designed to increase Chinese language learning in New Zealand. The first of its kind in any Western country, NZCLW seeks to bridge the cultural and linguistic knowledge gap between China and New Zealand by delivering fun and practical initiatives that assist Kiwis to learn Chinese.

While the term “Chinese language” is used here in reference to Mandarin, there are, in fact, many native Chinese languages with distinct dialects. In Aotearoa New Zealand, Chinese New Zealanders may speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew, Hakka or Shanghainese, among others.

The early Chinese who came to Aotearoa in the 1860s predominantly spoke Cantonese and its dialects. These were the main Chinese languages in Aotearoa until New Zealand’s immigration policy changed in 1987. In the 2018 New Zealand census, 247 770 people identified as being part of the Chinese ethnic group, an increase of 76 359 people since the 2013 census.

For all Chinese communities, their heritage languages are an important part of their identities. Each language provides unique insights into the history and culture of the people who speak it.

When you learn a new language, you gain new ways of thinking and understanding about your own culture and language. You are also introduced to different beliefs and cultural practices.

New Zealand Chinese Language Week helps all New Zealanders journey towards shared cultural understandings. It also celebrates the identity and cultures of students of Chinese descent and supports this group of learners to engage, to feel a sense of inclusion, and to achieve success.

Curriculum connections

NZC Curriculum icon.

New Zealand Chinese Language Week supports the curriculum principles of cultural diversity and inclusion, and provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate the vision of connection to a global community. Students can explore the values of diversity, community, and respect. Programmes of learning can help students achieve learning outcomes described in the learning languages area and make use of key competencies, especially using language, symbols and texts, and relating to others.

Great Wall of China.

How can you get involved?

Some ideas for classroom programmes or school-wide activities:

Use your students as teachers
There is a high chance that you will have speakers of Mandarin in your school. Encourage those students to be experts during New Zealand Chinese Language Week, and validate their expertise in front of other students. Support them to speak Mandarin to each other and to others in the class. Invite these students to prepare the language week celebrations for the school, placing an emphasis on shared language experiences.

Make connections to your community
New Zealand Chinese Language Week is an ideal opportunity to engage with families in the school community. Acknowledge expertise, encourage a steady flow of Mandarin speakers into the classroom, and let the community guide the teaching and learning. Family members might like to share their customs and beliefs with the students. They could teach you some Chinese phrases, lead a cooking or dancing lesson, tell traditional stories, bring cultural artefacts from home, or share Chinese songs or games. This is a great way to practise Mandarin, as students can interact with fluent speakers in everyday situations.

Learn and practice a new Chinese phrase each day 

To support your learning, you could use How to take part in the 'Five Days, Five Phrases' Challenge, a 2017 video from Samuel Marsden Collegiate School.

Write Chinese characters
Learn how to write some basic Chinese characters. You could write your name using Chinese characters.

Explore the Chinese zodiac
The Race by Chris Tso explains how the twelve animals that make up the Chinese zodiac came to be chosen and how their order was decided. Use the zodiac calendar to find out your Chinese zodiac sign.

Understand the significance of the dragon
The Chinese dragon is a legendary creature in Chinese folklore that symbolises power, strength, and good luck. Research the significance of the dragon in Chinese culture and create a Chinese dragon puppet or watercolour Chinese dragon.

Get involved in competitions and events
Check out the New Zealand Chinese Language Week (NZCLW) events page or the NZCLW Facebook page to see what’s on near you.

Useful resources

Te Papa resources

Chinese Languages in Aotearoa
An ongoing project using language to highlight complex issues of cultural identity within various Chinese New Zealand communities.

Chinese languages resources list
Includes articles and resources about language-related issues and conversations happening within the local and global ethnic Chinese diaspora. Great for those who are simply keen to learn more!

New Zealand Chinese Language Week guides

New Zealand Chinese Language Week primary guide
This guide and associated resources have been specifically written to support New Zealand primary and intermediate schools to celebrate New Zealand Chinese Language Week.

New Zealand Chinese Language Week secondary guide
This guide and associated resources have been specifically written to support New Zealand secondary schools to celebrate New Zealand Chinese Language Week.

Learning Languages on TKI

Learning Languages on TKI
The Learning Languages community on TKI is a portal to professional learning opportunities and support for the learning languages area of The New Zealand Curriculum.

Introductory resource

Hao! An introduction to Modern Standard Chinese
This is an introductory resource to support teaching and learning of Chinese. It aligns with curriculum levels 1 and 2 for learning languages. This resource is available to New Zealand schools free of charge.

Resources from Asia NZ and The Confucius Institute

Asia New Zealand education resources
This selection of resources about China have been developed in partnership with New Zealand teachers for use in New Zealand schools.

The Confucius Institute – Chinese in schools 
The Confucius Institutes in New Zealand support schools to offer Mandarin language and culture classes. This support includes advice, introductory programmes, professional development, principal delegations to China, and Mandarin language assistants. 

Instructional series

Another great way to get your students involved in New Zealand Chinese Language Week is to incorporate it into your reading and writing programme. The Instructional Series offers a range of texts about China. Here is a selection of titles: 

Leaves poem.

Leaves, School Journal Level 4 May 2020
This poem explores the relationship between the poet and her grandmother who was a refugee from China following the Cultural Revolution.

The Race, School Journal Level 2, 2017
In this play, Chris Tse retells a traditional Chinese story about how the twelve animals that make up the Chinese zodiac came to be chosen and how their order was decided. 

Chang-O and the Moon, Junior Journal 56, Level 2, 2018
A traditional Chinese tale that explains the phenomenon of the “goddess in the moon”. 

Chinese New Zealanders, School Journal Level 4, November 2019
"Chinese New Zealanders" provides an overview of migration to Aotearoa New Zealand from the 1860s until the present day. 

Bok Choy, School Journal Story Library, 2015
This seemingly simple historical story carries an important message about discrimination. It is set in a goldmining town in Otago during the 1860s gold rush. 

Have you seen?

Early start on Mandarin opens doors to wider world
This Education Gazette article explains how New Lynn Primary students are studying Mandarin language and Chinese culture as part of an approach to celebrate and normalise diversity.

Asia Aware – Why Asia matters to New Zealand
This 2009 report by the Asia New Zealand Foundation highlights the importance of building strong links with the Asia region and explores the role that education can play in this.

Updated on: 15 Jun 2020