So what do other countries do?

There’s plenty of other countries that have two or more official languages. Two that immediately spring to mind are Canada & Wales.

So do they encourage librarians to be bilingual? Do they make it compulsory for librarians- in-training to be bilingual? Or is it commonplace to just “encourage” bilingualism?

Why can’t we just put a stick in the sand here in New Zealand and say, right, in five years time, anyone who wants to work as a [teacher, librarian, social worker] or in the [medical, government, tourism] industry must be bilingual? Get started now. Five years notice. Go.

Perhaps I’m too idealistic about this.

Yes I know that learning another language is hard.

Yes I know that not everyone wants to learn English, Te Reo or NZSL.

Yes I know that we are all too [busy/tired/overworked].

Well that’s too bad. If we are doing [insert various job titles] for future generations, then it isn’t really about us is it?

Our future customers & communities & employers & employees deserve better.

Commit to it. Learn it. Use it. Show your community that you give a damn. Show them it can be done.

Be that change you want to see in the world. It might sometimes feel like an overused cliché, but until we actually show others how and why it can be done, then how can we expect it to be any different?

So let’s just draw a line in the sand – do you want to work in the GLAM sector in New Zealand? Then get yourself at least one official language fluently, another one beyond the absolute basics, and if you added in another language (official or not), then that is a total bonus.

So my mission is to find out this month whether any other countries make it compulsory. And then turn the spotlight on whether we can make it happen here in New Zealand.

5 thoughts on “So what do other countries do?

  1. Hmm I remember my Irish friend who was a teacher talked (complained) a lot about the Irish language part of her course. I wonder if librarians need to reach a specific level of Irish as well? It was a bit sad that she disliked it and found it a chore.. hopefully not everyone feels that way!

  2. I’m Irish and can assure you that not everyone feels that way! I worked in the public library sector in Ireland for a few years and had to do an interview in Irish as well as English, but it was really more of a chat to make sure you had at least conversational Irish. I do speak Irish frequently, even now that I’m living in the UK, with others who are living in the UK!

    I believe it was a requirement for posts above a certain level, and down to the fact that Irish speakers are entitled to request state services through Irish. There’s certainly an argument that every single person in the library didn’t need to have much Irish though…

    Irish is alive and well, but unfortunately it’s in pockets across the country, and in small groups within the cities. It’s a requirement to get into most of the universities. I know a lot of people who hated Irish at school because of the lack of choice (compulsory until 18), but that changed their minds as adults and took it up again.

    I think it’s a real balancing act – you don’t want people to hate the language because of it being imposed on them, but there needs to be a reason for people to choose it over more “useful” languages.

    • I agree that it is a balancing act to not impose language learning on people. I also find it really interesting that it is compulsory to have some Irish to be able to get into university – that is certainly not something I would have known about, and am now wondering what impact that has on people’s decisions to attend university, as well as how it impacts on international students. You’ve given me plenty of food for thought on this topic!

      • It’s compulsory (or at least it was ten years ago) to have passed if you want to get into at least four of the universities, but definitely not for Trinity or for the Institutes of Technology. I’m sure there are some who have to reconsider 3rd level choice as a result, but considering that 100% have to study Irish to Leaving Cert anyway the threshold is quite low. If it was made optional after 16 it might well be different…

  3. Pingback: My Twitter PLN, Being Māori and Learning Inupiaq | Discover :: Engage :: Reflect

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