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International Languages Week

World globe.

International Languages Week takes place this year between 25 and 29 May. This special week provides an opportunity to showcase, learn, and promote the diverse languages and cultures in our schools, communities, and nation. 

This resource page has ideas and links to help you get involved. 

About International Languages Week

Students in the playground.

International Languages Week is an annual event held in New Zealand to promote language and culture from around the world. 

Young New Zealanders today have exposure to a huge number of international languages – more than 160 languages are spoken in our country.

Learning an international language encompasses much more than language proficiency. Knowing an international language means knowing about the culture that is the foundation of that language.

Curriculum connections

NZC Curriculum icon.

International Languages Week supports the curriculum principles of cultural diversity and inclusion, and provides an opportunity for students to explore the values of diversity, community, and respect. Students can achieve learning outcomes described in the learning languages area and make use of key competencies, especially using language, symbols, and texts and relating to others.

How can you get involved?

Some ideas for classroom programmes or school-wide activities:

Students and teacher looking at a globe.

Use your students as teachers
There is a high chance that you will have some students who can speak languages other than English in your school. Encourage these students to be experts during International Languages Week and support them to share their language knowledge with others in the class. 

Make connections with your community
International Languages Week is an ideal opportunity to connect with your families to find out what languages are spoken in your community. Invite family members with a second language into the school as guest speakers, to read first language books, or practice conversations with students. 

Discussion starter
Use the following question as a discussion starter with your class – "does the world look different in other languages?" Consider what insights and understandings are gained by learning a new language. 

Celebrate the cultural diversity in your school
Hold an event where the multiculturalism of your school is celebrated. Students could plan an international day where they wear the traditional dress of their own culture and share music, customs, food, and dance. Or an International Languages Week assembly where students can showcase their greetings, customs, experiences, and stories to the rest of the school. Students could work collaboratively to make a video like this one to promote International Languages Week

Create a language resource
Develop a language resource for your school or local community. It could be a simple vocabulary picture book to help young students learn new words, or a greetings poster to encourage the use of international greetings around the school. Students might want to create a slideshow or video in an international language to welcome new migrants and inform them about your local area.

Connect with a class in an overseas country
Connect with another class in a country that speaks an international language. The Mixxer is a free educational site designed to connect language learners around the world.

Instructional series

Another great way to get your students involved in International Languages Week is to incorporate it into your reading and writing programme. The Instructional Series offers several texts that celebrate the cultural diversity of Aotearoa. Here are our top picks:

Ramadan is Coming, School Journal Level 2, August 2013
Obay’s family has come to New Zealand from Saudi Arabia. The article describes his family’s daily life, then focuses on the activities that occur at Ramadan. 

My Name is Rez, School Journal Level 3, November 2017 
Rez Gardi was born in a Kurdish refugee camp in Pakistan and came to New Zealand as a young child, with her family. This graphic text is a memoir, looking back on her life so far. She is now a successful lawyer, a worker for refugees, and was the 2017 Young New Zealander of the year. 

Home – Stories from New New Zealanders, School Journal Story Library Level 3, 2018
This text tells the stories of four Avondale Intermediate students who moved to New Zealand from overseas. Interviewed by their teacher, the students share memories of what life was like in the countries where they were born (South Africa, Sāmoa, Pakistan, and Kenya), and they discuss what it’s been like adjusting to life in New Zealand. 

Ngatu: Keeping the tradition alive, School Journal Level 2, June 2018
Megan and Lita are cousins who belong to the Tongan community in Wellington. This article describes how every week they come together with their mothers, grandmother, and other women and girls to learn about Tongan culture and how to make ngatu (tapa cloth).

Tafoe O! School Journal Level 2, November 2018
Every Sunday, a group of Tokelau adults and children meet in Wellington to pass on cultural knowledge. Recently, artist and master carver Paulino Tuwhala guided the group through the task of carving foe (paddles), which they used to perform a tafoe (dance).

Useful resources

Learning languages in the New Zealand Curriculum
This section of The New Zealand Curriculum explains the learning languages learning area. It highlights the importance of language learning, describes the learning area structure, and lists achievement objectives.

Learning languages TKI community
This TKI community provides support for language teaching in New Zealand. This resource page lists key teaching and learning resources, assessment guidelines, professional support, and official Ministry of Education resources relating to specific languages.

International Languages Week
This site helps teachers plan for International Languages Week. Check out the ideas to help you make International Languages Week a great event at your school.

Language learning using the context of sport (PDF 1.4MB)
To celebrate International Languages Week 2014, the National Language Advisors from China, France, Germany, Japan, and Spain have selected an unusual or popular sport from each of their countries to introduce a possible resource for the classroom. This resource is a downloadable PDF.

Senior secondary curriculum guides – Learning languages
These senior secondary teaching and learning guides for learning languages help teachers create quality teaching and learning programmes. They support teachers in their planning for the alignment of standards to The New Zealand Curriculum.

Pasifika languages
This section of the Pasikifa Education Community provides a range of information, resources, and guidelines to assist you in Pasifika language learning.

International capabilities
International Languages Week provides a useful context for students to develop international capabilities. International capabilities are the knowledge, skills, attitudes, dispositions, and values that enable people to live, work, and learn across national and cultural boundaries.

Chinese language case studies
These case studies focus on New Zealand schools that run Chinese language programmes, and people involved in Chinese language learning in New Zealand. They provide advice and tips about language learning for principals, teachers, and students. 

You might like ...

Cultural diversity principle 
This section of our website draws together research, digital resources, and examples to support schools as they consider the cultural diversity principle.

Do you have a story to share about International Languages Week?

  • How do you explore international languages in your school curriculum?
  • What international language projects have your students been involved in?

We would love to hear from you. Drop us a line at nzcurriculum@tki.org.nz. We will publish the best teaching and learning ideas on this resource page.

Updated on: 19 Mar 2020


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