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Telesia Tanoa'i (left) celebrating her victory.

Photo/Scoop Media

Language & Culture

Samoan language prodigy takes top spot for Chinese language student in Oceania

The talented year 11 student Telesia Tanoa'i is also among the top five Chinese language learners in the world.

Vaimaila Leatinu'u
Aui'a Vaimaila Leatinu'u
03 November 2023, 3:18pm
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A year 11 Samoan student has been named the top Chinese language student in Oceania and is one of the top five Chinese leaners worldwide.

Telesia Tanoa'i participated in the Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition, an international competition for non-Chinese students to demonstrate their knowledge of Chinese language and culture.

Tanoa'i, who attends Wellington's Samuel Marsden Collegiate, competed among 45,000 secondary school students across the globe.

Principal Paula Wells proudly praised Tanoa'i for her achievements.

“We are all so incredibly proud of Telesia; what an incredible ambassador she is for her culture, her family, and her school," Wells says.

"This outstanding achievement is testament to her hard work and her beautiful personality, which will have shone through on the international stage.”


Tanoa'i says her inspiration for langauge learning began with her Mum speaking multiple langauges from her career as a diplomat.

"She's amazing. Since I was little I've always loved learning Chinese," Tanoa'i says.

The language prodigy is also advocates against climate change, saying although the Pacific contribute the least that they are most impacted.

"Learning another language is a great way to advocate for our Pasifika people," she says.

"I can talk about issues that I'm passionate about like climate change and so speaking Chinese has helped me share that issue with a wider audience in China."

Last year Tanoa'i shared her speech on climate change to TikTok garnering over 150,000 views:

Tanoa'i is also learning French, te reo Māori (Māori language) and Gagana Sāmoa (Language of Sāmoa).

"I prioritise learning Sāmoan to be more connected to my culture," she says.

"I grew up in different areas of the worlds so my cultural identity was definitely a struggle.

"But being back home in New Zealand has helped me be grounded and surrounded by my family."

Watch the full interview below:

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