SHARE
Hard worker . Waitaki Girls' High School pupil Xiaoyu Chen. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

In only a few years, Waitaki Girls’ High School pupil Xiaoyu Chen’s command of the English language has grown remarkably.

The Chinese-born year 13 pupil arrived in New Zealand before the start of the 2013 school year.

Back then, her English skills were limited at best.

As the school did not have a staff member who could speak Mandarin, Xiaoyu learned to speak English through gestures, single words and pictures of nouns, and through the use of an electronic translator.

She said the process was difficult, but rewarding at the same time.

“I found it really hard. Sometimes, using the translator it would translate to something that didn’t mean what you wanted to mean, so it was a bit difficult.”

She found ESL (English as a Second Language) lessons helped, as did trying her hardest to talk to her friends.

Xiaoyu (17) would also study a dictionary frequently in an effort to grasp what words meant.

“There was quite a few people that I made friends with when I started here, but it was quite hard for them to talk to me, but they still talked to me.”

Only a few years after arriving in New Zealand, Xiaoyu gained level one and two excellence endorsements in year 11 and 12, and was on track to achieve level three excellence this year.

She put her success down to the support she received at the school.

“I’ve got a really helpful teacher that helps me a lot, Mrs Hellier, and I like the style of how they teach things here compared to China .. I really enjoy it.”

An accomplished pianist who accompanies the school’s choir, Xiaoyu also plays in the percussion section of the Waitaki Girls’ orchestra last year, and has represented the school at badminton since year 9.

She also plays netball, hockey and basketball.

Despite being offered a scholarship to study at a Sydney university next year, she planned to study towards a bachelor of commerce degree in conjunction with a bachelor of law degree at the University of Auckland.

“I enjoy commerce. My dad is a businessman so that’s the main reason I want to do business. Having law is useful in business too, so that’s the idea behind doing law.”