Bonjour – International Languages Week

The New Zealand that we live in today is very different from the New Zealand of the past. You realise this because when you pick up your kids from school, you can see the cultural and linguistic diversity yourself.

So why is the budget for International Languages Week zero? I’ve been asked to promote this and I agree with the sentiments. A whole pile of money is spent learning Maori where the only place in the world you can use it is New Zealand and the only doors that will readily open for you when using Maori are cell-doors. Surely a better use of resources would be to promote the importance of learning foreign languages.

International Languages Week 2009 will take place from Sunday 16 August to Saturday 22 August 2009. The week is an opportunity for all New Zealanders to celebrate cultural and language diversity and to encourage the learning of international languages in New Zealand. Language teachers from around the country will be organising school-based activities and celebrations from the Far North to the Deep South.

At a time when New Zealanders need to be learning more languages in order to engage politically and economically with the wider world, we are seeing a decline in the number of high schools offering the languages spoken in our communities as well as by our key trading partners. For example, between the 2001 and 2006 census, the number of Chinese speakers in NZ went up 41% from 93K to 131K. In the last 4 years, the number of high schools offering Chinese only went up from 46 to 50, and in spite of the widespread publicity generated by recent discussions on the rise of China, there are still less than 2000 high school kids learning Chinese.

Beyond the obvious benefit of being able to converse with the people you interact and do business with, New Zealanders who learn a second language demonstrate enhanced proficiency in their own language, as well as the ability to come up with more out-of-the-box solutions to complex issues.

International Languages Week offers language teachers and students the ideal opportunity to inspire the wider community to learn more about foreign cultures and languages. In the spirit of ILW we encourage New Zealanders to use a greeting in a different language each day.

Monday 17 August – Ni hao!
Tuesday 18 August – Bonjour!
Wednesday 19 August – Guten Tag!
Thursday 20 August – Konnichiwa!
Friday 21 August – Buenos días!

The official International Languages Week website is at

The Google Discussion group on ILW is at

For Facebook users, the ILW group is at