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Learning languages

Many comments related to the importance of language learning in understanding cultural differences, which, according to one student, was "vital in multi-cultural New Zealand". Language learning is "cultural learning – not just words and tenses," explained another. Two comments were that language learning also helped students in better knowing their own culture/themselves, offering "access to knowledge, and whakapapa" and "history and ancestors".

Commented a student: "There are a lot of opportunities in New Zealand today for young Māori, or really anyone who can speak basic Māori, especially in the field of TV and radio broadcasting. This can encourage young Māori with poor backgrounds to be more positive about going into and experiencing the workplace. It also adds cultural diversity to Aotearoa."

The importance of other languages as communication featured strongly. One student said that knowing other languages helped communication with non-English speaking students. Comments included:

  • "Languages allow you to be social."
  • "We learn languages to communicate."
  • "Languages are living, they need to be spoken."

Other students felt that knowing other languages was an advantage for careers, or in overseas travel or work. "They are important for career opportunities, keeping options open, and working overseas," said one. Languages offer "versatility", are "rewarding", and "useful in a 'globalised' world," commented another. Some students saw multilingual abilities as a factor in future success. "Learning a different language is an advantage when you travel, especially if it is one of the most spoken languages in the world," commented a student. Another named Japanese and Spanish as useful, being "trade/world languages".

Some students enjoyed learning another language. "Fun," said one; "Latin is interesting because the teacher makes it interesting," said another. However many others had reservations. A Pasifika girl said: "I don't really want to learn a Pacific language." This was echoed by other Pacific students. Another student noted a "lack of opportunity – there is a preference to study Pacific languages." One student found learning a language a "waste of time – three years and all you remember is how to say 'hello'!"

Other negative comments about language learning were:

  • "Hard to learn; not very useful."
  • "I already know two languages; that's enough for me."
  • "English is a common language, so we don't need to learn others."
  • "Put off by grammar."

An intermediate boy commented that he had had "only five to six weeks to learn German and French".

Published on: 20 Sep 2007