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The language of success

Jack Montgomerie. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

PM scholarships take Wairarapa people to China

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You could say Jack Montgomerie has a knack for languages, having dabbled in a handful, but it was Chinese that really took his fancy.

Montgomerie, from Greytown, was working as a reporter at the Timaru Herald in 2015 when he thought learning Chinese would be useful, given the Chinese dairy giant Yili Group was building a factory nearby.

“Workers were coming in from China and some of the company’s announcements about the project were posted on a Chinese sharemarket website, all in Chinese,” he said.

Coupled with help from a Chinese friend who he was assisting to perfect his English, Montgomerie, 27, soon picked up the basics of the language.

After leaving Timaru, he thought it would be a shame to let it go, so he continued to learn the language.

Fast-forward to 2018, and Montgomerie has been awarded a Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced the recipients last week, saying the scholarships “challenge students at a personal level, broadens their horizons, and allows them to build networks that will be useful throughout their careers”.

Montgomerie will head to Tsinghua University, Beijing, in September, for a one-year international student language programme.

He hopes to improve his Chinese language skills and learn more about the country’s economic and legal systems by taking law and economic papers – all in Chinese.

It all began for Montgomerie when he learnt French through correspondence while at Greytown Primary School — “back when they still sent out cassette tapes in the post with lessons on them, and you recorded your voice for the teacher to assess”.

“Then the Kuranui College video conferencing equipment let me take courses from a teacher in Stratford, so more than anything, it’s the state education system that’s helped a lot.”

Since leaving the college, he has learnt a variety of languages at different levels – German, French, Chinese and Bislama – one of the official languages of Vanuatu.

He learnt the island language to interview seasonal workers for his politics dissertation.

Montgomerie graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Arts degree, with Honours, majoring in history and politics, and a Diploma in Language, in French, in 2014.

He has worked as a language tutor in France, been a volunteer tutor for English Language Partners in New Zealand, and just finished working at the French Embassy in Wellington.

“It’s my first time in mainland China so I’m looking forward to a full-on cultural experience.”

Shanghai adventure beckons
Kimberley Brown. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Past Wairarapa College pupil Kimberley Brown was also a recipient of a Prime Minister’s Scholarship, a two-month marketing internship programme in Shanghai.

Now based in Christchurch, Brown is a finishing her Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Canterbury with a double major in marketing and management.

She hopes that after the internship she will come back to New Zealand more employable and be able to secure a job in marketing.

“I am excited about this new adventure and to have been given a chance to step out of my comfort zone,” she said.


  1. Very inspiring stories!
    Learning languages is always interesting and useful while meeting people from different cultures. I am amazed at what a great number of people learning Chinese Mandarin. It is a beautiful language, it can give you great fun and many more I believe.

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