New Zealand: Huge Risks In Second Language Policy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Aug 2 13:43:14 UTC 2006

Huge Risks In Second Language Policy
Wednesday, 2 August 2006, 9:03 am

New Zealand First is urging extreme caution with regards to the proposed
policy towards making schools offer a non-New Zealand language to all
students, said New Zealand First Education spokesman, Brian Donnelly. The
objective of making New Zealand more multi-lingual is laudatory. The
question is whether or not this policy will achieve that end. Certainly
half an hour a week, even if offered for four years in the same language,
is not going to achieve that objective. The risk is that our children will
end up with a superficial smorgasbord of ciaos, Bonjours, and Konichiwas
but make no progress towards fluency.

There are huge practical problems in insisting that all schools make the
offer of a language other than English or Maori to all pupils from years 7
to 10. It has to be asked what has to give in order for this to happen. No
one can deny there will be learning opportunity costs. It would be better
if the government took an encouragement approach by production of support
materials, assistance with staff development, production of best practice
and evidence of benefits to students, rather than the big stick approach,
said Mr Donnelly. Mr Donnelly has a post-graduate diploma in second
language teaching and taught French to intermediate pupils in the 1970s
from Massey University.

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