[lg policy] Teachers call for urgency on New Zealand languages policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jul 8 15:23:33 UTC 2014

Teachers call for urgency on NZ languages policy

English and community languages teachers attending the 14th National CLESOL
Conference in Wellington this weekend will call on the government to
develop a New Zealand languages policy "as a matter of urgency".

The conference at Rutherford House in Wellington from July 10-13 brings
together community language teachers who work to maintain the first
languages of migrant and refugee groups settled in New Zealand, and English
(ESOL) teachers who work with speakers of other languages in all sectors of

TESOLANZ president Dr Hilary Smith says the changing ethnic make-up of New
Zealand means all political parties need to make language teaching a key

She says that although there are now over 160 different languages spoken in
New Zealand and Auckland is one of the most culturally diverse cities in
the world, we still don’t have a languages policy to support the complex
and diverse needs of people who speak English as a second language.

"The language profile of New Zealand is changing rapidly, and without good
policy and planning to cater for the diverse language needs of a
significant number of residents we run the risk that many will not
participate fully in our society, or reach their potential.

"Acquiring language fluency is a significant barrier to people getting
jobs, understanding the system, getting a basic education and connecting
with the community.

"We need to increase our competency in other languages to trade and do
business in an increasingly complex world - especially now English is not
the first language of many of our major trading partners.

"We also need to see the existing language skills of new migrants as an
asset - not an impediment - to their learning," she says.

Dr Smith says TESOLANZ supports the Royal Society and the Human Rights
Commission who have both called for a national languages policy focusing
on: Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language; Pasifika languages
especially Cook Islands Māori, Niuean and Tokealuan; other community and
heritage languages; and English language.

"Future policy initiatives must be based on good evidence from high quality
local and international research," she says.

"A strong body of international evidence now shows that children who have a
good founda- tion in their first language have better outcomes in all
subjects, including English. This means it’s important for teachers to
understand how to support children’s learning in and of their first

"If we make sure our migrant children are confident in both languages, this
benefits them individually as well as the wider society. In some cases it
will also have a direct economic future benefit, by enabling them to work
confidently across two or more cultures."

Dr Smith says the "I’m not good at languages" mentality is now a luxury for
people in English language speaking countries which is not shared by the
rest of the world, and increasingly we are missing out on the social and
economic benefits that an understanding of other languages brings.

Over 350 community language and ESOL teachers and researchers are expected
to attend the conference, hosted by TESOLANZ in association with CLANZ (the
Community Languages Association of New Zealand).

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