Rotorua Boys' High School has come up against the big guns from throughout New Zealand and have taken away first and second places at a national Chinese speech competition. It means the two students will travel to China in October to represent New Zealand at a prestigious world event. Journalist Kelly Makiha catches up with the boys to find out how they have got so good at speaking the language and discovers their surroundings here in Rotorua as well as their amazing teacher has played key roles.
Having a brilliant teacher, working as a tour guide and eating at lots of Chinese restaurants.
They're just a few of the things Rotorua Boys' High School students Jimah Ruland-Umata and Sameed Khan attribute their success to at a national Chinese speech competition that will now see them represent New Zealand in China.
Jimah, 17, and Sameed, 16, were named first and second respectively at the 12th Chinese Bridge Proficiency Competition for New Zealand Secondary School Students on Sunday.
Winners of the senior (Years 11 to 13) category are funded to represent New Zealand at the glamorous and televised world finals in China.
Jimah said his work as a tour guide at Tamaki Māori Village translating for large Chinese groups had gone a long way to prepare him for the awards.
Also, each week he went out for dinner to a Chinese restaurant with his mother, who insisted he ordered their food in Chinese.
"Mum tells me if I don't speak it, I will not learn it."
Jimah and Sameed also say their teacher, Wendy Chen, had been incredible.
Sameed, who is a previous winner of the junior category for years 7 to 10, said given they only had a small class, they were made to speak Chinese the entire time.
"If you breathe the language and you are constantly talking it, it really makes a difference and that has helped me step up," Sameed said.
Chen, who was also part of the award winners by being named the most outstanding senior coach, will be the head coach of the New Zealand team that travels to China. The two other team members are students from Wellington and Christchurch.
Jimah, who also went home with the prizes for best senior talent and was awarded the New Zealand China Council Award, said he was incredibly proud of his school's achievements.
"We were up against private schools and decile 9 and 10 schools and we are a little public school with a low decile competing up against the big guns."
Sameed, who is from Pakistan and moved to New Zealand with his family when he was a baby, said it showed it didn't matter what decile the school was.
"If you put in the hard work and effort you can beat anyone, and if you have the support of an amazing teacher you can go as far as you want."
Jimah, who is of Samoan, Cook Island and Māori descent, said his prize for best talent came after performing a comedy stand up in the Beijing dialect.
"It was pretty hard to pull off but obviously the judges thought I did well."
Both students said the talent and standard of the students were amazing, making them extra chuffed with their efforts.
Chen said Jimah sealed his win during the question and answer phase of the competition, showing his proficiency in the language learned from his tour guiding to speak unscripted for up to two minutes answering a question.
She said she was incredibly proud especially to have two of the four-members of the New Zealand team coming from Rotorua Boys' High School.
Chen, who has taught at the school since 2009, said they had been to the nationals for eight years and for the last seven years they had had a student in the top four going to China. This was the first year two students would go.