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Landmark year for language learning

Human Rights Commission
Media Release
21 February 2008

Landmark year for language learning

Last year was a landmark year for languages in New Zealand and provides a strong foundation for further progress says Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres.

Mr de Bres will release a review of language diversity at the launch of the International Year of Languages at Te Papa on 21 February. The review forms part of the annual review of Race Relations which will be published in March.

The review notes a number of key milestones in 2007:
- Learning languages became a core learning area in the New Zealand curriculum
- Curricula were completed for New Zealand Sign Language, Māori in mainstream schools, Vagahau Niue and Tongan
- A survey of the health of the Māori Language showed improvements
- The Māori Language Commission and the Māori Language Act turned twenty, and a review of the Māori Language Strategy was initiated
- New community language resources were released for Cook Island Māori, Vagahau Niue and Gagana Tokelau
- BNZ and National Bank ATMs went multilingual
- A national language policy framework was released

Mr de Bres said that last year’s achievements provided a solid foundation for further progress in the next decade, and that the International Year of Languages offered a unique opportunity to develop a national languages strategy.

He said, “Providing opportunities for language learning and retention is vital for New Zealand’s social, cultural and economic wellbeing, and is therefore a matter of pressing public policy.

“New Zealand is a world leader in indigenous language regeneration, and also has a critical global role to play in the preservation of Pacific languages, particularly those that fall within the “New Zealand realm”, which includes Niue, the Cook Islands and Tokelau.”

The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme’s Language Policy Statement, released at the end of last year, called for strategies to be refreshed or developed for English, Māori, NZ Sign Language, Pacific languages, community and heritage languages and international languages, in the home, the community, education, public services, business and broadcasting.

Mr de Bres said, “At present there are no strategies for most of these languages and sectors, and they would all benefit from a coordinated approach.”

For a copy of the Language review in the Race Relations report, click here: http://www.hrc.co.nz/home/hrc/newsandissues/landmarkyearforlanguagelearning.php


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