The virtues of language learning
Wed, 22 Aug 2012 7:00p.m.
By Lachlan Forsyth
Raise the issue of whether Te Reo should be compulsorily taught, and invariably people will ask 'what's the point?'
Here's the thing though: Speak to educators, and they'll tell you that learning another language helps children with their native tongue as well. The earlier they start, the easier it is.
That's why you can go to certain schools around Auckland and you'll find pupils learning Mandarin, courtesy of the Chinese government.
But those same schools receive nothing from the New Zealand Government to offer pupils the equivalent learning in Maori.
Like they do every Monday afternoon, pupils at Takapuna Normal Intermediate are getting their weekly dose of Mandarin.
At just half an hour a week, it won't get them speaking fluently, but it can spark an interest in the language and culture, and what's more, the specialist tutors teaching the kids, come at no cost to the schools.
It’s all provided by the local branch of the Confucius Institute. The Institute aims is to build ties and strengthen relationships between China and other countries. It's effectively funded by the Chinese government because they can see the long-term benefits in teaching Kiwi kids another language and culture. And it's not just the Chinese who can see the benefits. The Korean embassy has looked at this model and seen the real benefits that derive from it.
So the Koreans and the Chinese are coughing up to teach our kids their languages. Now mother, grandmother, and Te Reo advocate Raewyn Harrison wants the New Zealand government to do the same for Maori.
“This model shows you don't have to be a qualified teacher, that's the beauty of it. The teacher remains in the classroom, you have your Te Reo assistant who comes into the classroom and teaches the children,” she says.
Raewyn sees this as a chance to address the issues that have always faced Te Reo: Lack of resources, lack of funding, and a lack of teachers
“Maori is unique to NZ. It is our language, it is a national language, and we are always willing to showcase Maori at every other opportunity - the Rugby World Cup, different sporting events, I think it's high time as a country we invested in the language so that it doesn't die, so that it continues to grow,” she says.
Around a quarter of a billion dollars is provided for Te Reo initiatives every year - Raewyn says just a fraction of that amount could fund Te Reo teaching assistants in schools throughout the country.
“One of the challenges for primary schools in New Zealand is we don't have enough Te Reo speakers,” says Owen Alexander of Takapuna Normal Intermediate. “I think it would be a perfect scenario to have a Maori language assistant in our schools.”
Of course, there are those who question the value of teaching Te Reo to children, but learning another language - any language - has been shown to have benefits far beyond simply knowing how to speak another tongue.
“All the research undoubtedly points to the earlier you start a language the better it is for the child. Not only do they learn a second language, they understand their native tongue. So for us to learn mandarin or Maori really improves our understanding of the English language,” said Mr Alexander.
Yes, Maori is spoken only in New Zealand, but Irish Gaelic is spoken only in Ireland, and yet it's heard widely throughout the country, and successfully taught alongside English at all schools.
“If you look overseas there are many countries that offer their children three or four languages,” says Brenda McPherson of Windy Ridge Primary School. “They are coming through state systems learning three or four languages easily and competently, and they are fluent, so in that sense New Zealand is probably not quite up to speed.”
“I've just returned from Singapore where they speak three languages without hesitation from a very early age. Wouldn't that be great in New Zealand?” Says Mr Alexander.
The idea has political backing. Trade minister Tim Groser added his support when he spoke on The Nation earlier this year.
“My personal view is we should be teaching Maori to every five-year-old child, and this is turning the usual Pakeha argument on its head, because what I think should happen is that you introduce very young children to the idea of biculturalism and more than one language, and then they will be able to learn other languages as their personal circumstances fit,” Mr Grosser said in April.
The argument - not only does learning Te Reo assist children with their wider education, it provides a reflection of who we are as a people, and what we are as a culture.
“We take great pride in the things native to New Zealand in relation to our flora and fauna. We invest a lot of money into ensuring those don't become extinct, and yet we seem a little bit slow adopting that methodology around the language,” says Ms McPherson.
Post a Comment
Before commenting, please take the time to read our moderation guide
(Won't be published)
29/11/2012 11:06:40 a.m.
I'm absolutely flabbergasted that there is not enough funding to teach our kids 20 mins of Te Reo a week!
What the heck is the Ministry Of Maori Affairs doing with their hundreds of Millions of Dollars. We have a whole Maori Radio and television network funded by our government yet unless you want to study the whole culture of Maori studies seriously, our kids have no access to the very language our more hundreds of millions are being spent on!!!Disgraceful
24/08/2012 11:58:47 p.m.
I'm Maori and I speak Maori, English and I'm learning Spanish and Japanese. All great languages and cultures. I recommend learning another language because it can open the door to another culture for whatever personal reasons you would pursue learning another language. For what purpose would you learn another language (e.g. education, employment, university entrance as IELTS students would know, love of a culture and its people, love of person from another culture)? You can see that the opportunites are so endless. So, endless debate over what is good and what is a waste of time is in itself pointless. No language is a waste of time!
Just to divert a bit here. As a fluent speaker of English, I always wondered if English had a culture attached to it like Maori (maori culture), Spanish (spanish culture) or Japenese (japanese culture)? English (english ???). If it does, I certainly don't know what it looks like but that being said I know I'm a better person for knowing English even if I don't know the culture.
24/08/2012 10:19:48 p.m.
The Maori language should be available to those that want to learn it, and not a compuseary taught language.
24/08/2012 10:07:02 a.m.
Michael Bauer wrote:
1) Mandarin is not an easy language to learn, even by full immersion and that's not even on the books. So what's the point of teaching a language which most kids will only learn to embarrassment level?
2) We work global but live local. Even if you are one of the small % doing business with China, you still live in NZ. Which means that unless you happen to live next to a Mandarin speaker, you're much more likely to find a use for Te Reo than Mandarin.
3) I have yet to meet a Mandarin speaker who prefers to do business in Mandarin with a Westerner.
4) Most Chinese emigrants are so quick to learn the local language (English) that the second or third generation usually is much less fluent in Mandarin itself.
5) If Mandarin was SOOOO useful, then why haven't the proponents already learned it?
Let's get real shall we?
23/08/2012 9:51:21 p.m.
I sick of hearing so much misuse of the English language these days, a few common examples:
"I went fishing & caught nothin"
"I done this or that etc"
"I seen it"
"I been there"
"Then I come home"
23/08/2012 7:33:46 p.m.
Paul Lepper wrote:
i believe learning moari is a waste of time and i would not wnat my kids forced to learn it. learning Mandarin has much more use and especially since more Asians choose NZ as their choice of country to reside in.
23/08/2012 5:38:37 p.m.
Not interested in Chinese. I studied Italian, French, Spanish, Latin and Greek. Now those are REAL languages with plenty of interest!
23/08/2012 2:34:49 p.m.
Great story, again we have to argue over the benefits of learning our language. Te Reo Maori should be taught in all schools and should be compulsory, good for the kids and country. Need to get rid of the racism, this will do it!Plus lets start investing in our own labour and stop going to China. Their human rights are appalling and us buying into the China is cheap bandwagon, makes us look like a moraless society. If we cant afford it dont buy/make it. Just think about that $2 toy you buy, some child was paid 50 cents to make 1000 of them and probably get cancer from inhaling the toxic plastic fumes.Grow up NZ lets stop following the US. Live simply, live good be kind to the environment.
23/08/2012 12:30:03 p.m.
Tihei Mauri Ora wrote:
Te reo Maori should not be an 'add-on' in a country it belongs to. The government already funds schools to provide a balanced curriculum. Te reo Maori should be embedded in that. As for bi-lingualism improving your first language. NZ'ers can't even get their own English right sometimes. I hear/read more ugly than beauty in the English language in this present day that my reo Maori and tikanga is becoming more a sanctuary from the negativity and vulgarity of English. Kei te mihi atu ki nga tangata e whai ana te ngako o ou ratou ake reo. Ki nga reo katoa huri noa i te ao - tena koutou katoa. :)
23/08/2012 11:12:02 a.m.
Speaking other languages has always been underestimated. Yet if you meet someone and they say I can speak 5 languages you are automatically impressed and assume a high level of intelligance? We should not try and trade one against another or put some futuristic unknown monetary value of what it will be worth to a child in the future? And Maori should always be recognised in NZ it is the native tongue?
Te Papa is our national museum but is it now a national disgrace?
The harlem shake is hugely popular, it's fun, and it appears to be harmless - unless you work at Fonterra where it has cost three people their jobs.
When a Rotorua couple lost their much loved family dog five months ago, they were sure he'd been stolen and they would never see him again.
Since Anchor released their new milk bottles the company has been inundated with calls from angry consumers.
Forty-eight women a week - nearly 2500 women a year - die from heart disease and, in many cases, it was avoidable or preventable.
Copyright © 2013 MediaWorks TV. All Rights Reserved.