Support international student’s wellbeing by understanding the culture and language differences – focus on the Chinese student cohort

Mr Nick Ko1, Mr Jack Yang2,3

1Deakin University, Burwood, Australia, 2Bridging Translation, Melbourne, Australia, 3CITAA (Chinese Interpreters and Translators Association of Australia), Melbourne & Sydney, Australia

Language barriers are one of the most common issues internationals students are facing when they arrive in Australia. We identify the specifics of how language barriers put so much pressure on international students and explore these barriers in detail in terms of culture and language structure differences. This presentation aims to provide a better understanding of perceived ‘inappropriate’ behaviour that international students may present, but are actually the norm in their culture and language. We use Chinese cohort as an example and briefly touch on other cultures such as Vietnamese and Thai students.  By understanding the reason for these behaviours, staff will be able to interact with international students in a more positive way, and this would assist in improving students’ mental wellbeing, by reducing the stress of culture shock. Staff can become aware of not falling into cultural pigeon holes, acknowledge and embrace the diversity and individuality of each student.

We encourage the audience to think about the questions below:

  • Do we adapt and react differently, for students who are presenting with their cultural customs?
  • At what stage do we try to influence students to be more in line with Australian customs? During consultation/interaction with international students?
  • What could be done to help students to transition and understand the norm in Australia?
  • Are we doing enough for pre-departure information or orientation?


Nick Ko –

Nick came to Australia as an international student 20 years ago. He has been working as an international student adviser at Deakin University since 2013 and has experience in managing student volunteer program, conducting student focus groups, supervising student interns, and looking after Australia Awards students at Deakin University.

Jack Yang-

Jack Yang is the CEO of Bridging Translation and Vice President of the Chinese Interpreters and Translators Association of Australia as well as a NAATI accredited professional translator and interpreter. He has been working as a Mandarin interpreter for more than 7 years in multiple fields including education, healthcare, legal, agriculture, business and so on. He was a chief interpreter in Jiangsu-Victoria provincial trading conference and RMIT executive education training courses for Chinese delegations from the educational sector. He was also teaching advanced diploma in Translation and Interpreting at Sydney Institute of Interpreting and Translating. He constantly strives to study the Chinese and English languages and has a deep understanding of how language can affect people’s reaction or behaviour.

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