Author: Diane Johnson
Date of Publication: June 2015
Series Title: Scottish Languages Review
Notes: Issue 29
The provision of European languages within the New Zealand education system is discussed here in the context of the origins and evolution of language education in the country and the various problems that have been associated with it. These problems include the fact that any discussion of languages inevitably raises issues concerning the endangered status of Māori, the indigenous language of the country, issues which have the potential to highlight deep divisions within society. Hence, there is an unwillingness on the part of successive governments to engage seriously in debate about language needs and aspirations. Only a very small percentage of students at any level of the education system study languages other than English and Māori. Although European languages are studied by over half of those who do study languages, there is very little choice in terms of the European languages on offer. Furthermore, public opinion favours the teaching and learning of Asian and Pacific languages. In fact, two of the languages on offer that originated in Europe, French and Spanish, may have retained their position, in part, because they are, for many New Zealanders, at least as strongly associated with the Pacific and Pacific Rim countries where they are spoken as they are with their countries of origin.