A $10 million Government investment in the provision of Asian languages in schools may help halt New Zealand’s rapid decline in language learning, AUT University’s Head of Language and Culture, Associate Professor Sharon Harvey says.
Over the past few years, the number of students studying a second language has dropped drastically.
“It’s great to see action being taken. Asia is vitally important to New Zealand on many fronts, and it is becoming increasingly important that New Zealanders are equipped with the strong intercultural skills needed to work productively in this arena,” Associate Professor Harvey says.
The Government has announced it will invest $10 million over five years to increase the study of Asian languages in schools. The contestable fund will help schools establish new Mandarin, Japanese or Korean language programmes, and enhance existing Asian language programmes.
While Associate Professor Harvey welcomes the move to encourage languages to be learnt, she cautions that rolling out the initiatives stimulated by the funding won’t be easy.
“There are many practical challenges ahead, particularly building the pool of language teachers in New Zealand. Lifting our proficiency in Asian languages will take substantial resourcing, and will need to be carefully planned for.”
She also calls for a more complete view to be taken, advocating a policy that also supports non-Asian languages, and that preserves and improves language proficiency in bilingual school children of all ages.
“We need a comprehensive ‘languages in education policy’ that coherently considers all issues surrounding languages in schools. We should avoid pitting some languages against others for resources, and work to protect the natural language resources New Zealand has gained through our sizeable diasporic communities.”