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A national languages policy for New Zealand

A national languages policy for New Zealand

New Zealand is more ethnically and linguistically diverse than ever before. What is now termed ‘superdiversity’ has the potential to be a great strength for New Zealand. Having people able to speak a number of languages and communicate interculturally is an asset in an increasingly globalised world. Perhaps even more important is our ability to empathise and communicate effectively with each other at home in New Zealand. We are not currently utilising our linguistic resources in such a way that these ideals can be realised. Language practices in New Zealand usually happen in a policy vacuum. When language policies are in operation they are often without reference to the wider linguistic ecosystem. For example, when children start school in New Zealand their English is assessed with a view to offering extra support for those who are not first language speakers of English. But, how often is the full linguistic repertoire of children assessed so that schools can assist in maintaining students’ bi and multingualism through their education?

Associate Professor Sharon Harvey, Head of the School of Language and Culture at AUT and members of the Auckland Languages Strategy Group headed by Susan Warren of COMET, are calling for a national languages policy to provide strategic direction and thinking about language use and acquisition across all policy portfolios and for all languages. There is potential for more positive outcomes particularly in trade, justice, health, education and social cohesion if we can get languages right in New Zealand. To support this call Professor Joseph Lo Bianco from the University of Melbourne, an international expert in language policy is visiting New Zealand next week to give a series of public lectures discussing the need for a national languages policy for New Zealand.

The lecture series is supported by Auckland University of Technology in partnership with TESOLANZ, Asia New Zealand Foundation, COMET Auckland, NZALT, Victoria University of Wellington and Royal Society Te Apārangi.

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