Wellington Year 11 high school student Telesia Tanoa’i of Samuel Marsden Collegiate School has been named the top Chinese language student in Oceania and one of the top five Chinese learners in the world.
The Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition is an international competition for non-Chinese students to demonstrate their knowledge of Chinese language and culture. The 16th Chinese Bridge attracted 45,000 secondary school students who competed in preliminary competitions across the globe.
After winning the Lower North Island competition run by the Confucius Institute at Victoria University of Wellington, Telesia, accompanied by her Chinese teacher Mrs Jing Ying Herrington and three other regional winners from New Zealand, travelled to China for the global competition. They joined 110 representatives from 97 countries in Beijing and Yunnan province, China from 16-31 October.
Telesia claimed the title of Continental Champion for Oceania, alongside Continent Champions from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe.
Principal Paula Wells says “We are all so incredibly proud of Telesia; what an incredible ambassador she is for her culture, her family, and her school. This outstanding achievement is testament to her hard work and her beautiful personality, which will have shone through on the international stage.”
Telesia, who was also a Youth Ambassador for New Zealand Chinese Language Week, started learning Mandarin Chinese from a young age thanks to the influence of her mother who is a former New Zealand diplomat and speaks multiple languages. In addition to Mandarin, Telesia is also learning Gagana Samoa, Te Reo Māori, and French.
“I am grateful my parents saw the value in language lessons and that we had the chance to travel when I was growing up. A huge motivation for learning Chinese is that some of my best friends are Chinese Kiwis and Chinese international students. I love learning from them, and sharing my Samoan culture with them too,” says Telesia.
Another incentive is being able to talk about issues affecting Pacific peoples, such as climate change, with a global audience. A Chinese speech Telesia shared on this topic has been viewed 150,000 times on TikTok.
Telesia hopes her success in the competition will encourage others to learn Chinese and open a world of opportunities and international experiences.