The native Mandarin speaker who's translating te reo on television

by Vomle Springford / 20 February, 2019

Lidu Gong.

A native Mandarin speaker, Lidu Gong turned his insomnia into an opportunity to learn te reo Māori, now he's playing an important role at the televised national kapa haka champs this weekend.

Auckland librarian Lidu Gong knows a lot of Māori proverbs. The 64-year-old first started learning them in bed; suffering from insomnia, he was told thinking about something boring would help.

Recalling his failed attempts at learning German and Japanese in his 20s, he was convinced nothing was more boring than learning a new language, so he took on te reo Māori as a sort of therapy, but it inadvertently changed the course of his life.

Eight years later, he’s about to translate Te Matatini kapa haka championship finals, from te reo into Mandarin for Maori Television, making Māori culture more accessible to Mandarin speakers.

Gong, who moved to New Zealand in 1996 speaking Mandarin and little English, says proverbs are his favourite way of learning te reo, and it’s much easier to learn than English.

“I turn off the lights and the first thing I do is to try to recall the proverb – not mechanically – I reflect on the meaning.”

He calls it “heart learning”.

“Through learning whakataukī [proverbs], I’m living a fuller life… It comes through to my life, my work.”

Read more: How learning new languages boosts your brain & keeps it young

The meanings behind the proverbs, many of which there are equivalents in Mandarin, have been a powerful tool for Gong, turning his job into something more than a tool to make money.

“Working is the way of living rather making a living, money is secondary. What matters is why I work.”

Gong first used this type of learning, ignoring the grammar rules and rote learning style, while teaching English as a second language to new immigrants, when he decided to apply it to his own life.

He has since supplemented his late-night sessions with classes and now uses te reo daily in his job at Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Mangere, for example, to lead the karakia at meetings.

Gong considers te reo his ‘wairua’ [spirit] language.

“Learning Te Reo to me is a spiritual exercise and I have been transformed through learning it in a holistic way.”

He says he supports learning te reo in schools: “Learning and teaching another language is not just for the sake of the language but to be a culturally competent person.”

 “When you learn a language you enter another world, it’s an eye opener.”

Follow NOTED on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and sign up to our email newsletter for more news.

Latest

Lecretia Seales' widower makes his case for death with dignity
103655 2019-03-20 00:00:00Z Health

Lecretia Seales' widower makes his case for death…

by Matt Vickers

Ahead of a report back on the End of Life Choice Bill, Matt Vickers, widower of assisted dying advocate Lecretia Seales makes his case.

Read more
Sid at the French Café to host a special lunch to support Christchurch victims
103751 2019-03-20 00:00:00Z Auckland Eats

Sid at the French Café to host a special lunch to…

by Metro

A special luncheon will be held to raise money in support of the victims and families affected by the Christchurch mosque shooting.

Read more
Tech giants accused of inciting violence for hosting mosque shooter's livestream
103603 2019-03-19 10:23:15Z Tech

Tech giants accused of inciting violence for hosti…

by Vomle Springford

Facebook, Google and other tech platforms are being condemned for hosting the Christchurch shooter's video.

Read more
'We've failed miserably': Critics condemn spy agencies' surveillance strategy
103607 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Crime

'We've failed miserably': Critics condemn spy agen…

by Phil Pennington

Former Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy said the response to Muslims over what they see as a growing threat to them was "diabolical".

Read more
Party leaders saying little on gun law reform
103601 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Politics

Party leaders saying little on gun law reform

by Gia Garrick

Governing parties are giving no clues on how the country's gun laws will change following Friday's terror attack in Christchurch.

Read more
Test of faith: Does New Zealand have anything to fear from radical Islam?
70722 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Social issues

Test of faith: Does New Zealand have anything to f…

by Joanna Wane

Almost three years ago, the Muslim community in Auckland welcomed me into their world with warmth, trust and open arms.

Read more
Saziah Bashir: 4 things you should do following the Christchurch terror attack
103634 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z Social issues

Saziah Bashir: 4 things you should do following th…

by Saziah Bashir

What can we do? Where to from here? People have to recognise the Muslim community is grieving.

Read more
Christchurch shooting: How the world is reacting to the terror attack
103651 2019-03-19 00:00:00Z World

Christchurch shooting: How the world is reacting t…

by Ryan J Holder

In the wake of the Christchurch terror attack, there is grief, despair, anger and a righteous sense that things need to change.

Read more