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New Zealanders speak 160 languages

5 March 2013

New Zealanders speak 160 languages

On a world scale, we’re incredibly diverse. Isn’t it time we looked after our languages as we do other precious resources?

The Royal Society of New Zealand has taken a closer look at the need for a national languages policy.

English Language Partners strongly supports the idea. “If you’re working internationally, it makes sense to be able to speak the language of the people you do business with,” says Charles Hayward, Strategic Development Manager.

“It’s great for our economy, and there are huge benefits for our communities here too.”

English Language Partners helps around 6,500 migrants and refugees learn English so they can participate in New Zealand life.

“We have over 150 languages on our database,” says Mr Hayward.

“Each person brings at least one language - sometimes as many as five or six. Yet these languages are often lost within a generation or two.”

Lai Ching Tan, a bilingual Kiwi working for the organisation, uses both English and Chinese at work. “It’s really hard to keep up our own language at home,” she says. “Even when we talk to our children in Chinese, they often answer in English.”

Mr Hayward attended the research’s 5 March launch in Auckland, and says the work being done in this area is immensely important. “We need to think of our languages an essential resource - the same way we value agriculture and farming in this country.

“We hope every MP reads this paper thoughtfully.”

Read the languages paper: www.royalsociety.org.nz

ENDS

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