Auckland police learn Mandarin to better engage with Chinese community
Originally published on Stuff by Charlotte Carter on 8 Jan 2019
Auckland police officers are learning Mandarin in a bid to better engage with the super city’s growing Chinese population.
The initiative, led by Ethnic Responsiveness Manager for Tamaki Makaurau, Jessica Phuang, was born out of conversations Phuang had with the Chinese community which identified a need for the lessons.
“Often, Chinese people find it very difficult to communicate with the police, but it’s more the culture understanding that’s needed as well,” Phuang said.
“While I’m trying to help the Chinese people understand Kiwi culture, I thought, you need two hands to clap.”
So far, 20 Auckland police officers have completed a 10-lesson level one Mandarin course, and 11 officers have completed the level two course.
Auckland Police taking Mandarin classes with CI teacher Liu Jia
Lessons were held on a Thursday morning at 9am for two hours and sought to help officers understand aspects of Chinese culture, such as lucky numbers and symbols, as well as basic greetings and numbers.
Phuang said a lot of what the officers learned was relevant to their work.
“For example, officers often have to attend the funeral of an Asian person and we have certain rituals and symbols around colours for funerals,” she said.
The colour white symbolises death in Chinese culture and a white banner is often placed over the door of a household to signify a death has occurred.
White flowers are laid at Chinese funerals and light-coloured clothing is worn, whereas the colours red, yellow and brown are traditionally not seen or worn at funerals.
The level one Mandarin module was taught by the Chinese New Settlers Trust, while the level two module was taught by the Confucius Institute, both for free.
Level one was a beginner course for people with no prior knowledge of Mandarin, teaching vowels, pronunciation and simple vocabulary, while level two introduced officers to the formation of sentences.
Phuang said both the Chinese New Settlers the Confucius Institute saw the need for the lessons and wanted to help the Chinese community.
Lessons might be over, but officers are still gathering on a Thursday morning to practise their Mandarin.
“They are waiting for me to create a level three lesson for them, I’m trying to work out how we can do it but these people are giving their time for free to teach and we can’t do this forever,” Phuang said.
Officers have been practising their Mandarin at their local fruit shop and at events, which has thrilled members of the Chinese community.
Phuang said an officer attended one such event with her recently and his use of Mandarin was exceptionally well received.
“He said, I’m Neil I’m a police officer, I come from India, my children’s names are, so and so and my wife’s name is so and so – people just applauded and applauded,” she said.
“There were a few Chinese women there that were screaming with joy.”
Phuang hoped to run another level one class this year after seeing the demand and impact of the trial.
Te Reo courses are also offered to New Zealand Police, she said.