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NZ missing out on language resource: report

MEDIA RELEASE FROM UNITEC

NZ missing out on language resource: report

"Language is such an important part of the knowledge wave. We have to be able to communicate globallyŠ

"This country is missing out on an opportunity to create a talented pool of bilingual speakers who are culturally aware."

A NEW report by UNITEC's School of English and Applied Linguistics shows that refugees and other non-English speaking immigrants to New Zealand are struggling to maintain the use of their own languages because this country does not have a coherent languages policy.

The report, Many Languages, Diverse Peoples, was undertaken by Dr Nikhat Shameem to assess the need for community language classes. Its results conclude that, while we have an abundance of ESOL classes and training for teachers of English as a Second Language, those who want to teach and maintain their own languages are severely disadvantaged.

"It's not that people who come to this country don't want to learn English; they do," Shameem says. "But their overwhelming need is to be bilingual. They want both. And language is such an important part of the knowledge wave. We have to be able to communicate globally. This country is missing out on an opportunity to create a talented pool of bilingual speakers who are culturally aware."

New Zealand is home to speakers of around 32 minority languages. President of the Community Languages Association, Helen Panayiodou, believes the Government should be providing social and economic support to language schools. Shameem's report puts forward a proposal for a National Languages and Literacy Institute, along with the establishment of a central directory of classes.

At present classes are mostly run by volunteers and parents. They suffer from a lack of quality resources, suitable teachers and community support. Many in the community don't even know that classes exist.

The social problems of losing the ability to speak a mother tongue are well known: fragmented communities, alienated teenagers who tend to lose respect for their parents.

To meet some of the needs addressed by the report, UNITEC is working on expanding the papers it offers as part of the Graduate Diploma in Language Teaching. These additions will help equip language teachers with a framework that can be applied to teaching any language.

For more information, contact Anne Bailey, Media Manager, UNITEC Institute of Technology 0-9-815 4321 ext 8751, 021 293 2156 abailey@unitec.ac.nz


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