Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Promoting Asian Languages

I was recently invited to join discussions with Asia NZ on the future directions of Learning Languages (particularly Asian Languages) in New Zealand. It was very well organised for conversation as we  moved Cafe style around changing groups of participants from across the sector and language and cultural organisations. This engaged us in discussions that teased out key themes and issues that emerged throughout the day. Thanks Jeff for superb facilitation of the day & outgoing AsiaNZ director John McKinnon for an inspiring welcoming speech (you can read the accompanying opinion piece here). The Key Question was: "By 2025, all school students in New Zealand will have the opportunity to learn an Asian language. How do we make this happen?"

Some of the general discussion raised around the room was echoed by many - access to NZ based teachers, the recognition of languages as important, the drop off in students past year 10, competition for resourcing within schools & lack of policy direction. This is not just the case for Asian Languages but these are the same messages coming through on the Languages listservs i belong to as well.

For me the main themes I formed from discussions I had, was the need for a clear strategic direction that should be developed and enacted through the collaboration of all key stakeholders; alongside this is the need to engage with the wider community and to make learning relevant to our students in order to incentivise greater participation. You can read the full overview of the day's discussion collated and shared by Asia New Zealand here.

It is encouraging to know that the government is investing in this area and schools can access funding to support learning Asian languages but at the same time it also a concern that this funding isn't aligned to clear educational strategies. Schools will find it useful to refer to this supporting document from Asian New Zealand that gives guidelines for planning, piloting and sustaining Asian Language learning programmes.

So moving forward from here we look forward to taking these conversations further, building on our collaborative partnerships and developing new ones to support Asian language learning opportunities for our students. Watch this space!

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