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Wider Knowledge of Other Languages Vital for NZ

Wider Knowledge of Other Languages Vital for NZ

New Zealand needs to shake off its monolingual complacency and recognise the value of language diversity for the nation’s social, economic and cultural development, Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres said today.

He was speaking at the opening of a national conference of language teachers in Auckland on the theme of Bridging Cultures, Reaching Heights.

Mr de Bres said it was important that Maori, Pacific and other language issues were being considered together at the conference for the first time, because the fundamental challenge was to achieve a more positive climate generally for multilingualism. This would lead to greater investment in language learning across the board.

“Teachers of Maori, Pacific, Asian and European languages are not in competition with each other. They share common goals of promoting cultural diversity, up-skilling the nation, resourcing tourism and trade, and promoting intercultural understanding”, said Mr de Bres.

A report published today from the Asia New Zealand Foundation, Preparing a Future with Asia, also highlighted the urgent need for more people to learn Asian languages.

“We may think we can get along at home and in the world with just English, but if we want to have a competitive edge in the global environment we need to grow our Maori and Pacific cultural heritage as our unique brand and increase our knowledge of all the world’s major languages.”

Mr de Bres welcomed the forthcoming introduction of a language learning curriculum for Year 7-8 students, the imminent promotion of the new Maori in the Mainstream curriculum in Maori Language Week, and government support in this year’s budget for the Mind Your Language Programme for the Niuean, Cook Island Maori and Tokelauan languages. He also noted that the Office of Ethnic Affairs was working on a national languages policy.

Mr de Bres said Maori Language Week later this month was an opportunity to promote the value of language learning in general and for bridging cultures in New Zealand. The Maori Language Week promotions have also focused on the fact that learning languages can be a lot of fun.

This year’ Maori Language Week is from 24-31 July, and focuses on Maori language in sport.


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