7 Language Learning Myths Holding Us Back

Found an interesting article on Forbes debunking the myths of language learning holding us back in the social, economic and political marketplace. Although the writer is American, it’s still relevant in a Kiwi context. Essentially the author provides a great response to the commonly held belief: Why learn a foreign language, if everyone else is learning English?

Myth 1: Everybody already speaks English (or they’re learning it).

Yes, about one quarter of the world population speaks English to some degree. What about the remaining 5.4 billion people sharing our planet?

Myth 2: Spanish, French and German are the most spoken languages in the world (besides English, of course).

At last count, about 77 percent of American college students in language courses were studying Spanish, French or German. Those languages and English are spoken natively by less than 13 percent of the global population. To put that into context, Javanese and Bengali claim more native speakers than German and French, but they are scarcely studied by American students.  If we exclusively learn European languages, we will continue to leave billions of people out of the global conversation.

Myth 3: China speaks Chinese. India speaks Hindi. America speaks English.

You may rush to learn Mandarin Chinese because you will be working in China, only to find that you should have studied Cantonese. You may find yourself in a region of Paraguay where Guaraní is more helpful than Spanish, or in an Indian state where Tamil is spoken more widely than Hindi.

Our world is not two-dimensional—state lines do not determine cultural practices or mediums of communication. As language learners, we need to do our research on which communities we are hoping to connect with, and what we can do to best facilitate exchange.

Myth 4: It is impossible to learn a language after my sixteenth birthday.

Yes, learning a language becomes less natural as we grow older, but it is absolutely possible regardless of age. In fact, most language software is built with adult or college-aged learners in mind. It is never too late.
Myth 5: It is too expensive to learn anything other than Spanish.

Resources are more available in some languages than in others. More universities offer Italian than Vietnamese— that is the reality. Even so there are so many affordable or free resources online. Many libraries, for example, partner with Mango Languages, thereby offering seventy different languages to patrons for free! A few Google searches may uncover the wealth of opportunities to learn languages online or in-person near you.

Myth 6: Urdu won’t help me get a job. Turkish is useless. I will never find a place to use Vietnamese.

In a rapidly globalizing world, it is tough to make a resume stand out.  Sometimes “out-of-the-ordinary” is just what you need. Some federal departments, for example, are giving scholarships to students to learn Azerbaijani, Indonesian, Punjabi, and more. Furthermore, many of these underrepresented languages are spoken in major emerging markets. To do work in these up-and-coming economies, we might be better off learning Hungarian, Polish or Thai.

Myth 7: Language learning is unnecessary with modern translation technologies.

Think about the last time you misinterpreted sarcasm or could not connect a cultural reference. In her recently released book, Erin Meyer asserts that the English spoken in the United States is the lowest context language in the world, meaning it requires minimal cultural context in order to understand. In other parts of the world, communication is not as simple. Language instruction introduces us to the nuances of cultures, allowing us to build productive personal and professional relationships with people from unfamiliar cultures.

[Check out my article on language learning technologies for Kiwis].

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Event: Design Trends seminar to support orphaned Latin American kids

Check out this upcoming design trends seminar. All proceeds will go to NPH New Zealand, a charity set up to care for orphaned and abandoned children in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Design Trends Seminar

Thursday, 31 July 2014

6.30 – 8.30pm,

Cavit&Co, 547A Parnell Road

Tickets $60

NPH stands for Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos which means ‘Our little brothers and sisters’ in Spanish. NPH cares for over 3,000 orphaned and abandoend children throughout Latin America, all of whom have lived through extreme poverty, neglect or abuse.

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Ken Applegate from Fisher Funds on doing business with the Chinese

At Euroasia, we have the privelege of meeting talented New Zealanders who do amazing things in their day jobs. For today’s blog entry, we have Ken Applegate, who has been learning Mandarin with us since early last year to share his views on the Chinese economy, why he’s investing there, and his experience in working with the Chinese.

Ken is the Senior Portfolio Manager for the Fisher Funds International Fund, a specialist New Zealand-based fund manager with assets under management of NZ$1billion spread across more than 30,000 clients. Thanks Ken for sharing your story with the Euroasia community.

Fisher

As a global investor we have the ability to invest anywhere in the world and our allocation to Chinese companies has ranged from 20-40% of the fund. We have a long term structurally bullish view on the Chinese economy. This is not just our opinion; it is based on fact and history. China has been a global economic powerhouse more than once in history. Countries like the US and the UK have dominated the world economy once before and even Rome was ‘great’ once. Just a little more than 200 years ago China’s economy comprised approximately 1/3 of global GDP and it is on the rise again. To quote Warren Buffett, a legendary investor, “the 19th century belonged to England, the 20th century belonged to the U.S., and the 21st century belongs to China. Invest accordingly“. I firmly believe most people underestimate how important this shift is and the significance of its implications.

China dominated the world economy 200 years ago

China_gdp

I have worked as a global fund manager for more than 15 years with the majority of my experience gained while living in California. I first visited China in 2000, and I now travel to China 2-3 times per year. In addition, I speak with Chinese companies and local investors/analysts on a weekly basis and often meet with Chinese companies when I attend investment conferences throughout Asia, especially in Singapore and Hong Kong. I have described below two examples of investments made in China which highlight some of the many challenges I have encountered and learned from over the years.

I also believe in continued learning and my latest pursuit has been learning Mandarin. I began taking a weekly class at Euroasia language school in Auckland in early 2010. I have experienced first-hand the difference between speaking Chinese and thinking Chinese. While I have spent a good deal of the last 10 years trying to understand the Chinese way of doing business, I decided that learning the language could be another way to bridge the gap between cultures. Many Chinese attempt to learn English so out of respect why shouldn’t we attempt to learn the most widely spoken language in the world?

China’s future will be driven by urbanisation and the emerging middle class

China_urban

It is critical to understand that while China is one country there are significant regional differences. One way to gain a holistic picture is to travel to a variety of locations throughout China. While Shanghai and Beijing are the financial and political centres, they comprise less than 5% of the Chinese population. The real future of China, in my opinion, lies in the emerging middle class so I have made an effort to travel to tier 2 and tier 3 cities. In addition to Guangzhou in the south, I have been as far west as Chongqing and Chengdu and as far north as Changchun. I like to visit similar locations every few years to see how things are developing. The reason for my travel is to visit company management at their headquarters. I have found they are much more open to a dialogue and it forms a lasting impression if a fund manager from New Zealand makes an effort to come and spend a day with them on their home turf.

This is the welcome I received from Cao Zhao Hui, the CEO of Wasion Group, when I visited them at their headquarters outside of Changsha in 2009

Ken_applegate

The first example is an investment that didn’t work out. One way we generate our investment ideas is through quantitative screening of financial metrics. We discovered a company called Dapai, China’s leading branded backpack and luggage company. I was attracted to the company because of its leadership position in its industry and cheap valuation. The valuation of the company was low because the company had made some decisions that did not fit the mold of a ‘typical’ high quality publicly traded company.

After significant research on the company and numerous conference calls with company management I believed that this was an investment worth pursuing. We are strong believers in quality management so I travelled to Quanzhou, Fujian Province, to spend a day with the CEO and Chairman at their facility. I also conducted research by interviewing customers at shopping malls (including the competition) to gauge the perception of the company and brand.

As mentioned previously the cheap valuation was due to subpar decisions the company had made in regards to how the stock and company was perceived. I believed these decisions were made in naivety. During my meeting with the CEO I highlighted how to change their perception which could lead to significant wealth creation. I offered my assistance and facilitated a conversation with a public relations firm and numerous specialised brokers and made myself available for discussion on any decision-making if required. They responded positively and we celebrated a fruitful day and good relationship over dinner.

I had continued conference calls with management and while the company did make some positive steps forward they were only baby steps. Unfortunately the key decisions continued to be poor in spite of my advice. This was frustrating as there was no logical rationale for the decisions. The decisions were actually made for reasons other than purely financial reasons, which meant sacrificing

their own business in the short term to maintain relationships with distributors. I understand this is important, but it was still

frustrating as management had committed to change. While I do understand how Chinese think, I am ultimately a westerner, especially when it comes to business, and our way of decision-making does not always prevail.

Touring the Dapai factory with the CEO, Chen “Perry” Yong

Dapai

The second example involves a more positive outcome. The company is China Automation Group, a leading company in safety equipment for the petrochemical and rail equipment industries. It is similar in structure to the first example where my research and relationship was developed over a 6-month period. The major difference in this example is that I already had relationships with a number of players in the rail equipment industry. This added depth and meaning to my relationship with this company.

We first invested capital in China Automation Group in mid 2008 and while business for the company continued to be positive, the stock took a dive in 2008. This was frustrating for the company and for me. I remember meeting with Xuan Ruiguo, the Chairman of China Automation Group, in Hong Kong in October 2008 when the stock price was HK0.60/share.

To put this into context we bought our first shares at HK$2/share. The good news is that now the shares are trading at more than Hk$6/share. We showed our confidence and belief in the company by buying more shares and it was this day that defined our relationship. I had breakfast with the Chairman in March this year and he recalled my support during that challenging time and said that he always has time for me.

Summary

I have always believed in a long term approach to investing and this is a mindset that is critical when it comes to doing business in China. The best lessons I have learned have not come from reading books but from my own experiences on the ground. This will continue to be the focus for me in the future. We shouldn’t overestimate the ability to change others’ mindsets and this is not a sustainable outcome anyway. We need to adapt if we are to conduct business in their country, and both parties in a relationship must be satisfied. This requires a long term approach – it’s not just about trying to make a short term profit.

The best piece of advice I give people who want to try and understand China is to go there. I tell them to spend some time in one of the big cities and then travel inland to a smaller city. I have offered numerous times to provide assistance to those interested in an attempt to make the process seem less daunting. Seeing is believing. It takes time to develop an understanding and time to create relationships. Confucius said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”…and the long term rewards can be unlimited.

Posted via email from Euroasia

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Immigration or invasion flyers in Christchurch

The Press reports that flyers titled “Immigration or Invasion” has been distributed in Christchurch by a group called New Zealand Right Wing Resistance.

Some thoughts on the arguments presented:

“If current trends continue, whites will soon be a minority in this country”.

That’s a well-known fact. Not just in New Zealand. Around the world white people are having fewer kids. So it’s no surprise that the proportion of whites will continue to dwindle.

I imagine similar conversations happening in Christchurch in the 1800s along the lines of “If current trends continue, Maori will soon be a minority in this country”.

“Uncivilised immigrants are turning New Zealand into a third world slum. They come to take advantage of our welfare systems, they take our already scarce jobs, they disrespect our culture and have no interest in the wellbeing of our once great nation.”

These “uncivilised immigrants” are the very people propping up the New Zealand economy. Globally, it’s

well acknowledged that immigrants give more than they take as a whole. If immigrants uproot their lives in order to move their family to New Zealand, don’t you think perhaps they may want to contribute towards their adopted home, in order for a brighter future for the kids? It’s preposterous to suggest

immigrants come to New Zealand to sabotage this country so that their kids have no future here.

Some of us “uncivilised immigrants” take it a step further; creating jobs, paying taxes, paying people who pay taxes, buying from local suppliers etc.

Hon Jonathan Coleman, Minister of Immigration, commenting on the Department of Labour research on the economic impact of immigrants to New Zealand, says: “Without current levels of inward migration, both our population base and economy would shrink dramatically. By 2021, our population would drop by 9.6 per cent and our GDP would drop by 11.3 percent. There would be a 10.9 percent drop in the available labour force and the export sector would be savaged with volumes dropping by 12.9 percent.

“What this research tells us is that immigration contributes significantly to every New Zealander’s per capita income”.

“They bring crime, spread previously foreign diseases inter-breed with our people, and are increasingly taking over our schools, putting our own children at a disadvantage.”

Anyone who has ever attended a school prize-giving ceremony in any urban New Zealand town will see that there is a disproportionate number of Asian immigrant kids winning prizes. If that is what is meant by “taking over our schools” I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing. After all, the people complaining are supposedly the the very people who champion meritocracy and complain about affirmative action for Maori. It’s no secret. The reason immigrant kids are “taking over our schools” is simply because they work harder, in spite of English often not

being their first language, and in spite of many having come from humble family backgrounds. Encouraging people to succeed in spite of adversity is supposedly a very Kiwi value. So I’ve heard.

“Don’t allow yourself to be misled by this corrupt financially useless, multiculturalist, perverted Government! Stop sitting back on the sideline, DO SOMETHING for your people and your nation! Send them home and close the borders!

Ahh… when all arguments fail…there’s always the standard line: Ching Chong, go home.

I suppose there’s only a very small minority who share the sentiments of this white supremacist group. What’s worrying however is the number of people who have voiced their support for this group in the comments section of The Press article.

At Euroasia, our corporate vision has always been about “connecting people across cultures”. Though we are in the business of providing foreign language courses for Kiwis, in reality we do more than that. We help New Zealanders better understand people from other cultures, and vice-versa. 9 times out of 10, misunderstanding occurs because of a lack of communication between parties, and unchallenged misconceptions about the other party. We are now offering our language courses in Christchurch. Hopefully we can play a small role in bridging the gap between immigrants and locals in Christchurch.

INVASION?

or

INVESTMENT?

Posted via email from Euroasia

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We can do better selling New Zealand overseas

Marketing guru Seth Godin showcased Ibex as an example of what a good website should look like in his blog today.
Ibex is a Vermont, USA-based company that sells outdoor clothing. Their long sleeve tops for men average about USD100 each. Not exactly cheap, but not over-the-top expensive either. Seth Godin outlines five things that make Ibex successful online:

  • They sell a product you can’t buy at the local store. This is easily overlooked and critically important. Because it’s unique, it’s worth seeking out and talking about. Just because you built a site doesn’t mean I care. At all. But if you build a product I love, I’ll help you.
  • They understand that online pictures are free. Unlike a print catalog, extra pictures don’t cost much. Make them big. Let me see the nubbiness or the zipper or the way you make things.
  • They use smart copy (but not too much).
  • They are obsessed with permission. Once you sign up, you’ll get really good coupons and discounts by email. Not too often, but often enough that my guess is that they make most of their sales this way. 25% discount on a product just like a product you love–just before Valentine’s day? Sign me up.
  • They aren’t afraid to post reviews. Even critical ones.

No doubt with the advent of online commerce anyone can sell anything online. As you go through the list, it’s apparent this is not rocket science. But it’s a wonder how few businesses get the basics right. This got me thinking about the missed potential for New Zealand firms. New Zealand is blessed with some of the most amazing natural resources in the world, superior products including honey, wool, seafood, dairy etc.

Almost all of the Ibex products I came across use the same raw ingredient: New Zealand merino wool.

A woolies zip t-neck (USD72) uses 18.5 micron New Zealand Merino lightweight rib; 150 g/m2. Not sure what the raw cost is, but probably not more than USD2 given the low price of raw processed wool. So basically of the USD72

retail price, maybe USD2 accrues to New Zealand wool producers and processors COMBINED, or 3% of the retail price.

OK, this may not be surprising to some people who already understand that it doesn’t matter if you have the best product in the world; if you can’t sell then you’re finished. However, my bet is the average New Zealander probably doesn’t realise the extent to which we’re “giving away” business. Coming back to the official website of New Zealand merino wool, the organisation tasked with marketing New Zealand merino wool globally.   The homepage is not particularly impressive, and people clicking on the “customer gateway” (curious terminology-

maybe they asked the resident IT geek to write this) get this “under construction” message. I don’t get these messages. If you don’t have a website, just wait until you have one. Why put up an “under construction” message?

Seeing this is the top site that appears on Google whenever anyone searches for “NZ merino wool” I’m not sure it’s a good look for foreign visitors researching NZ merino wool.

The 1992 Arthur D Little (American management consultancy) report quoted on the “About Us” page says:

New Zealand merino is unequivocally the best in the world and needs to be taken to the market in a manner which is distinctly different from the rest of the clip.

Sounds good. Hope there has been some progress in the 19 years since that report was published.

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How you can benefit from learning a second language

Most of us at some point or another have wanted to learn a second language. Some of us have learnt French or Japanese at high school. But most of us are still surprisingly monolingual (around 80% of Kiwis).

Some New Zealanders still think English is the lingua franca of the global village, only to be surprised when they visit faraway towns in Europe, South America or Asia. However, learning another language is useful not only because it opens up great travel possibilities. Learning a foreign language also helps give us an understanding of and appreciation for people that are different from us. Your understanding of the world will be enriched by gaining access to resources not available in English.

And as far as careers go, you don’t have to be an aspiring United Nations diplomat to learn a second language.

In our global village today there is almost no career that you could enter where second language skills wouldn’t come in handy at some time.  Even the big metropolitan cities – New York, London, Paris, Sydney etc. – which were once homogenous – now have sizeable populations of people who speak English as a second language. Being able to say on your CV that you have attempted to learn a second language would certainly make you come across as someone who is adventurous and serious about understanding people from other cultures. If you’re already doing business with people who speak a foreign language, you should at least be able to say a few words in the language of your business counterparts. You will no doubt win their respect, and in time this will translate into business deals.

Before you book your air ticket for that

trip to Europe or Asia this year, consider learning the local language to enrich your holiday experience.

Euroasia Language Academy offers programmes in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Call Cedric now on 0800 387627 or visit www.euroasia.co.nz for information on courses starting 26 April in Auckland and Christchurch.

For those of you super-busy people, there are two additional options:

  • if you are keen to learn as much as you can within a short timeframe, consider the 2-week Fasttrack 2 programme, starting 13 April,
  • if you can’t make it for class every week at one of our centres, you can still sign up for the online language buy propecia 5mg online uk course – delivered live by a language teacher from our centre in Auckland.

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UK govt says schools should teach Mandarin to all teenagers

Every teenager should have the chance to learn Mandarin due to the growing importance of China in world events, according to the UK government. One in seven secondary schools, which teach pupils aged 11-16, currently offer Mandarin and Schools Secretary Ed Balls said he wanted to extend this through language partnerships between schools.

From the BBC website this week:

All secondary school pupils in England should have the chance to learn a less familiar language such as Mandarin, says Children’s Secretary Ed Balls.

Mandarin has become increasingly popular in schools – with one in seven now teaching the subject.

Making it more widely available is an cialis order “aspiration” rather than a pledge – and could mean schools and colleges sharing specialist language

teaching staff.

Mr Balls highlighted the economic importance of learning languages.

As well as Mandarin, he pointed to the growing importance of Portuguese for trading with Brazil, Spanish in Argentina and Bahasa Indonesia in Indonesia.

Emerging economies

“A growing number of schools are now teaching Mandarin and in the coming years I think we will see this subject sitting alongside French, Spanish and German as one of the most popular languages for young people to learn,” said Mr Balls.

“In this new decade our ties with emerging economies like China will become even more important and it’s vital that young people are equipped with the skills which they need, and British businesses need too, in order to succeed in a rapidly-changing world,” he said.

So what is the New Zealand government’s stance?

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ABAC dinner with PM John Key

Earlier this month, I had the privelege of attending the annual APEC Advisory Business Council (ABAC) dinner hosted by the NZ International Business Forum, where the PM briefs members of the business community on what happened at APEC. This year, there’s lots to say about the economy and the PM has just arrived back from the East Asia Summit, Malaysia-NZ FTA, CHOGM, and about to go to Copenhagen.

Ken with PM John Key

The PM talked about 3 key issues:

1) Global interconnectedness. Synchronised recession is illustrative of this. Deep recessions will become more common as economies become more interdependent.

2) Global imbalances. PM cited a savings imbalance, with the West being funded by the East. He thinks the yuan will have to appreciate (given his background as Head of FX for Merrill Lynch, I was thinking whether to start hoarding some yuan) . The major issue is US consumers won’t spend.

The Americans are looking for 20m jobs (7m unemployed plus 13m coming into workforce).

3) Climate change. Unless the big boys (US, China etc) are involved, we can’t change things. It is more of a problem than people think, and will hit faster and with more severity.As the bulk of energy (70%) in NZ already come from renewable sources, and 50% of emissions is from agriculture, addressing this will be a big challenge.

The Q&A was pretty fascinating. One guy asked a serious question “If we want to catch Australia

why not just merge with them?” The PM’s response: I just got back from CHOGM where Australian PM Kevin Rudd asked me the same question. My response was I’m too busy running New Zealand to run Australia as well. This guy can be very funny. I do think John Key is more in touch with the masses than Helen Clark; and has a way with both CEOs as well as joe public. Perhaps this explains his 80% favourability rating throughout a very difficult year.

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NZ Malaysia FTA signing in Kuala Lumpur Pt 2


signing malaysia nz fta
Signing of Malaysia NZ FTA; (L-R) Tim Groser, John Key, Najib, Mustapa

Monday 26 October 2009 was a historic day for Malaysia – New Zealand relations. 10 years of trade negotiations culminated in the official signing of the Malaysia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement. A group of 45 businesspeople from New Zealand, coupled with another 15 or so New Zealanders residing in Malaysia accompanied Prime Minister John Key to Malaysia for this historic event. I had the privelege of joining the NZ delegation to Kuala Lumpur. The irony is I am Malaysian and KL is my hometown, and it felt a little weird being on the other side. Nevertheless it was an amazing experience being part of this momentous occasion.

Free Trade Agreements are highly beneficial for New Zealand. Relatively speaking, New Zealand is already a very free country, with few tariffs and trade barriers, making it very easy for foreign businesses to do business in NZ. However, the same is not true for most other nations.

The Star on Malaysia NZ FTA
Pg 2 of The Star on Malaysia NZ FTA

Many countries impose significant tariffs on imported goods, and have convoluted non-tariff barriers designed to protect domestic industries from foreign competition. This is why it is easy for NZ to sign up to a free trade agreement because these agreements most definitely result in net gains for NZ businesses. The real difficulty is in convincing foreign nations to give up long standing tariffs. The Kiwi trade negotiators have very few bargaining chips to play with, a key reason why I have a lot of respect for these guys.

This is why I’m unhappy with the negative people who complain that FTAs are useless and are merely tools for select few businesses to make more money. The reality for exporters is that because of this FTA, tariffs for kiwifruit exports to Malaysia will go from 15% to 0%. Fonterra will see liquid milk quotas increasing significantly to 2.1m litres p.a., and a reduction of the 20% inquota tariff for liquid milk to 0%. Considering Fonterra’s market share in Malaysia for the adult milk category is 77% and 80% in prenatal dairy products, this is a huge win.

PM's motorcade with police outriders
PM's motorcade with police outriders, view from coach I was in

Education institutions can secure 70% shareholding (up from 49% currently) in Malaysian-domiciled joint ventures by 2015. Fran O’Sullivan (who was in Malaysia with the trade delegation) discusses benefits for NZ education providers in her 28 October editorial “Malaysia the key to unlock other doors“.

Ultimately, the Malaysia NZ FTA is all about enhancing already strong and long enduring ties between the two nations. As politics and economics are so intertwined,

the partnership of two nations via the FTA symbolises the mutual commitment of both parties.

As I have never been on a New Zealand trade delegation signing an FTA, this trip was a real eye-opener for me. NZTE and MFAT did a great job putting the programme together. We certainly enjoyed the ride in the PM’s motorcade. The 60-strong trade delegation were put in two coaches, behind the PM’s car and security detail (probably half the cars carried security personnel). I sat behind the bus driver and could see the speedo hitting the top speed of 120 kmh, the driver struggling to keep up .

invite from Malaysian Prime Minister
invite from Malaysian Prime Minister

Knowing KL traffic, it’s amazing to see the motorways cleared, with the entourage going from KL to Shah Alam in record time. They even sent an ambulance along to accompany the motorcade. My guess is this is because they don’t want any delay in despatching medical assistance should anything happen to visiting heads of state. We managed to visit the new Datacom office in Bandar Utama and the new Fonterra yoghurt factory in Shah Alam, had lunch and got back to KL Hilton within 4 or 5 hours. Under normal traffic conditions, driving time alone would already take that long. The other bonus for me personally is to have received a dinner invitation from the Malaysian Prime Minister (extended to all visiting New Zealand delegates). Had I stayed on in Malaysia and not moved to NZ, I don’t know when I would receive a dinner invite from the Malaysian PM’s office. The other interesting irony is that I received a New Zealand Prime Ministerial invite before the Malaysian one (18 months ago, to celebrate the signing of the China NZ FTA).

NZ trade delegation to Malaysia
NZ trade delegation to Malaysia, with members of Malaysia NZ Business Council

Malaysia and New Zealand have strong historic links dating back to the 1940s with New Zealand soldiers helping Malaya fight the communists, and students from Malaysia arriving in New Zealand in the 1950s and 60s under the Colombo Plan.

Several New Zealand Army officers served in Malaya while on secondment with British units from 1949. New Zealand became more directly involved in the Malayan Emergency operations in 1955, following its decision to contribute forces to the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve. In total, 1300 New Zealanders served as part of a Commonwealth force including army, air force and navy.

The Colombo Plan was a plan for Cooperative Economic Development of South and South East Asia and was conceived at a meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers held in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in January 1950. All aid was given on a bi-lateral basis and the negotiations were conducted between the donor and the receiving government. No conditions or strings were attached to any aid provided and there was no expectation of a return by the donor country.

Petronas Twin Towers
Petronas Twin Towers

More than 300,000 recipients benefited from this scholarship during the period 1951-1989. Scholars were trained in Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and United Kingdom. Many New Zealand graduates are now in senior and influential positions within the government and private sectors in Malaysia.

During the KL trip, I took two of the New Zealand delegates to the Petronas Twin Towers. On the way there, we stopped at the mosque behind KLCC as they were fascinated with the architecture. It was almost midnight, and we bumped into 3 security guards at the mosque. They were very friendly and asked me in Bahasa (Malay language) where the guests are from. I said New Zealand. They immediately smiled and were very friendly, even asking if we wanted to take photos inside the mosque. They knew the All Blacks (it would be difficult to find one Malaysian who doesn’t recognise this most famous of Kiwi brands), and one of them mentioned Jonah Lomu. My Kiwi friends were most impressed with the Malaysians they have met, and were very keen to explore what can be done in Malaysia. This is why I am optimistic that Malaysia New Zealand relations will go from strength to strength.

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