Not only did the ACG Parnell student win the secondary schools division of this year’s speech competition, but with it he earned the chance to go to China later this year to represent New Zealand in the international championship. He’s also been invited to become a youth ambassador for New Zealand Chinese Language Week and has appeared on Channel 33 NZ Chinese News.
Representing New Zealand on the global stage
“This long-anticipated award means a lot. It’s an award I’ve been pursuing for some time and it is super-exciting to be invited to a further round of the competition in China,” says Colden. “I’ve never been to China before and honestly don’t know what to expect. I’m excited about everything! Since I was young I’ve always dreamed of being immersed in a language and culture I was learning about, so I can’t wait to see what that’s like.”
Organised by the Confucius Institute at the University of Auckland, more than 100 students from over 20 New Zealand primary and secondary schools participated in this year’s contest, making it the largest in the event’s history.
Learning a language makes life better
Colden’s award-winning speech shone the spotlight on his personal journey of learning Mandarin, and the myriad of ways it has improved his life.
“My original interest in Chinese was a simple interest in foreign languages, and Chinese was the first one I really got into learning. Over time, of course, I’ve developed a much more unique appreciation for Mandarin. It’s a joy to be able to express myself in another language and connect with others in their own language. I also love the new perspectives and cultural knowledge imbued through learning Chinese,” he explains.
The ultimate support crew
While Colden has an obvious talent for learning languages, he says ACG and his passionate and dedicated teachers have also been pivotal to his success.
“Through the years my teachers have put a lot of extra time and hard work into me. All three of ACG Parnell’s Chinese teachers have volunteered hours of their time outside of class, even in weekends and holidays, to help me prepare my speeches, and in the classroom they’ve provided excellent tuition and support for learning this language. I think my recent win should be considered as much a win for them as it is for me! I feel like everything that I’ve done, and that has been done for me, over all my years at ACG is now truly paying off.”
Stepping out to hone his skills
But it’s not just time spent in the classroom that has boosted Colden’s language skills – he works hard to embrace every possible opportunity to grow and improve.
“I’m becoming more involved in the Chinese language learning community as a whole. We obviously speak, read, write and especially listen to lots of Chinese in class, but outside the classroom I often chat with teachers and Chinese friends. I frequently read the news in Chinese and enjoy going to local Chinese businesses to at least read if not speak the language in a practical way. I feel proud of the sense of confidence and belonging I have developed among my peers in the Chinese language learning community.”
Mastering Mandarin – what are the challenges?
Many say Mandarin is the most challenging language to learn, and Colden is the first to admit it’s not always smooth sailing.
“In my speech I semi-jokingly say that the hardest part about learning any language is having the confidence to speak it to a native, especially a stranger. Chinese grammar is also really hard, but I've grown to love its irregularities and differences from English.”
Besides, the rich rewards Colden has gained throughout his Chinese studies more than make up for any blood, sweat and tears.
“From a perspective of personal intellectual growth, I think I am already making good use of the language and will continue to do so as long as I learn. Having an understanding of a second language should aid me in my future studies of linguistics and I’m considering a career in translation, interpretation, or some form of international relations.”