Let’s lead the way – Bilingual NZ Librarians

I’ve recently come back from Australia, and it seems that bilingualism for librarians might be more challenging elsewhere than in NZ.

In some cases, a country may not have an no official language. I was surprised to find that this includes Australia and the United States.

In some cases, the number of languages and dialectal variations across a country is immense. Therefore meaning that it may not be practicable to force librarians to be bilingual in at least two official languages, because there are just too many variations to make it compulsory in a curriculum. For instance, India and the Philippines might be in this category.

In some cases, a language might be officially recognised in only part of the country, such as Norway or Russia. Again this presents a challenge to make it enforceable in a curriculum.

However, for those countries, such as New Zealand and Wales, that have at least two official languages, why not make it compulsory as part of the training?

I truly believe that New Zealand could lead the way for this type of bilingual initiative, and not just for libraries. It could be an integral part of the training across the GLAM sector, and also for educators, social services and health services workers.

We could blaze the trail and show the world how it is done. Make it compulsory. Make it flexible. It could be delivered as an integral part of an institution’s existing programme or a number of nationally recognised programmes that already exist could be recognised through prior learning.

In ten to fifteen years time, a basic Māori language course for GLAM may not be as important as many of the new trainees will have progressed through the education system where Te Reo Māori is already mandatory, but it might shift the focus to a deeper discussion of tikanga and tino rangatiratanga. Or maybe we as a country will have already moved on anyhow (she writes ever hopefully).

In terms of NZSL, I see an increase in the number of people who can sign as a big positive, but I haven’t engaged enough recently with the Deaf community to see if this would be welcomed.

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2 thoughts on “Let’s lead the way – Bilingual NZ Librarians

  1. I take it you mean ‘maybe in the future Te Reo will be mandatory as part of many qualifications.’ It certainly isn’t compulsory in primary and secondary education that I know of although many people work towards this valiantly. We have whole school lessons and tutoring from a Te Reo speaker as well as kapa haka at our primary school – we can afford to pay the teacher, many schools can’t or won’t – and she is happy with part time employment as she has a young family. [Well I assume she can’t be anything but happy, and hopefully as they get older she’ll be able to teach more.] And yes of course it should be mandatory for every child to learn in New Zealand and at the same time we need many more qualified teachers of Te Reo – a slow process. At present what we have is many people who know a little Te Reo and a reasonable amount about tikanga …. at least it’s a start. In the meantime it has been proven that learning a second language while under 13 years is extremely good for your brain and intellectual ability so we should be teaching any language we have a teacher for! It may not be the ‘perfect’ language but still allows students to appreciate another culture.

  2. Kia ora Angela.

    It’s great to hear that your school is having whole school Te Reo lessons, instead of waiting for it to become a compulsory component of the education system. Your school is leading the way and making it happen 😉 And knowing some Te Reo, and having an understanding of tikanga goes a long way to making it an ‘ordinary’ part of our community, instead of something unusual or extra. I mean ordinary is a positive way, rather than relegating it to ‘other’ or ‘strange’.

    I also agree that it will take time before we have enough qualified teachers to make mandatory language in schools a true reality, but your school is leading the way by implementing the habit of a second language early. It doesn’t need to be onerous, but it does take the commitment across a school to embed it. I also agree that learning another language does allow students to see the world in a broader sense through another cultural lens.

    I am really encouraged to hear that your school is making it a reality – ka pai. While we might not know the true impact of this initiative until the children move through to secondary and/or tertiary education, and into the workplace, but know that you are positive part of the future.

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