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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Learning languages follows trade deals?

The Palmerston North Tribune recently (November 24, 2010) published an article about Dr Colin Anderson, retiring senior lecturer in languages at Massey University.  He said that language studies follow fashions and trade deals.  'All BA students in the 1970s had to have a foreign language as part of their degree and many opted for French.   In the 1980s that requirement was dropped, but emerging trade deals with Japan created demand for Japanese speakers.  Something similar happened in the 1990s with more trade and contact with Latin America triggering demand for Spanish.'   Dr Anderson said that he can see the next big push will be for Chinese.  He also believes that children should start learning another language at eight or nine.
Since New Zealand has trade talks coming up with Russia will there be a renaissance of Russian teaching?  Or will Korean studies be set up in one of our tertiary institutions?
It seems Dr Anderson is not alone in stressing the importance of teaching foreign languages.  Japan's education minister Yoshiaki Takaki has said: "Since we are living in a globalized society, I am keenly aware of the necessity of children acquiring the ability to communicate in foreign languages."  (Japan Times October 13, 2010)
Will New Zealand exporters be equipped first to negotiate deals with countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan and Korea, and then to carry on successful trade with them?  Or will we expect these new trading partners to speak English?


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