Bilingual Librarians

New Zealand has three official languages:

  • Te Reo Māori
  • New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL)
  • English

And how many librarians can actually hold a basic conversation in more than one of these official languages?

For me, English is my first language. I have been more fluent in NZSL than I am now – I worked for the Deaf Association for 12 months almost a decade ago. However, I am embarrassed that my Te Reo is not very good. And it is my responsibility to fix that.

And how many of our children are learning at least two, if not three, of these official languages?

Te Whāriki is the curriculum framework for the ECE sector. This outlines what the Early Childhood Education sector will focus on for our next generations. These are our future library customers – in every sector. This is what they will learn, what they will expect. And so how are we going to respond to these language needs & expectations.

And how many of our current library customers actually speak more than one language at home (although not necessarily one of the three official languages)?

The 2006 NZ Census data showed 17.5% of the population spoke two or more languages. I wonder how much this % will change this year, and also how much more it will be in five years or ten years.

Why don’t we make it compulsory for *all* library, archivists, GLAM sector folks can hold a basic conversation in at least two of our official languages in New Zealand? After all, it’s becoming increasingly common in the education sector.

And we’d also encourage them to speak at least another one as well …

With the 2013 NZ Census coming up on 5th March 2013, we have a great opportunity to get hard facts about language use in NZ, and look at how it is changing, where it changing, and figuring out why it is changing.

As Librarians …

We want to be relevant. We want to be reflective of our customers. We want to make information accessible.

So let’s make ourselves relevant. Let’s reflect our customers. Let’s participate in the information creation & access of our customers.

Let’s also make a commitment to our community to learn at least two of NZ’s official languages. Bilingual Librarians indeed.


3 thoughts on “Bilingual Librarians

    • I’m not sure I will ever make it to a properly trilingual Librarian, I would like to at least improve my skills all round. There’s also not that many trilingual NZSL/Te Reo/English interpreters, but they are always in hot demand up & down the country, so it’d be great to see this group grow as well. Looking forward to reading more about your language learnings too 😉

      • Yeah I’m not sure how easy it will be. I think you need a few fluent friends you can practise with, which isn’t always the easiest to find. I currently live in Aus and haven’t had any luck in finding a conversation partner for Māori. And for NZSL I’m going to Auslan events and trying to use more Auslan signs. I’m sure trilingual terps would be very much in demand! I’ve had fun doing it casually before, but I can’t image doing that for a job. I think my brain would fry..

        Anyways, was great to happen upon your blog, I will certainly keep reading 🙂

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