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Newsletters > Diversity Action Programme > Te Waka Reo: National Language Policy > 2012 > March

Te Waka Reo: National Language Policy

ISSN 1178-0967 March, 2012

News & Issues

UN study on languages and culture

Language and culture are indivisible, as language contains, and allows for the expression of culture. This is the Human Rights Commission’s view as set out in a submission for a study on the role of languages and culture.

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The study is being done by the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People (EMRIP).

The Commission says that effective promotion and protection of languages requires four components:

  1. a clear strategy agreed between indigenous peoples and the State
  2. indigenous community commitment and action
  3. state financial support and a legislative and institutional framework; including official recognition of indigenous languages
  4.  wider community acceptance and recognition of the right to language.

The Commission stresses the importance of National Human Rights Institutions promoting the right to language for indigenous people as an integral part of their general advocacy for human rights.

The Commission’s submission describes the evolution of te reo Māori, state promotion and protection, and te reo Māori today.

A draft of the Expert Mechanism’s study will be finalised in early April 2012 in preparation for the Expert Mechanism’s fifth session in July 2012. Visit the OHCHR website for further information on this study.

Visit the Human Rights Commission’s website to view the full submission.

Government priorities and languages

Government agency briefings to incoming Ministers are now online. The briefings set out agencies’ top priorities and the issues they consider most important to bring to Ministers’ attention.

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Top four priorities set out in the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs’ briefing are Education; Youth, Skills and Employment; Enterprising Communities; and Promoting Pacific Cultures and Languages. It notes that “vibrant Pacific languages and cultures will contribute to improved social and economic outcomes, and the cultural wellbeing of Pacific people.” The use of Pacific languages in New Zealand is declining, and some are at risk of extinction. To address this challenge, the Ministry will finalise its Pacific Language Framework over the coming year. It will continue working with Pacific communities to support implementation of Community Action Plans for language regeneration and promotion.

A key component of Te Puni Kōkiri’s work programme is progressing the review of the Māori Language Strategy. Subject to decisions in that review, the work programme includes possible review of the Māori Language Act 1987.

The Office of Ethnic Affairs’ briefing notes the opportunity to encourage civic participation in the Constitutional Review, including on the language rights of ethnic groups. It notes connections with other portfolios administered by the Department of Internal Affairs -within which the Office of Ethnic Affairs is based – include the Language Line telephone interpreting service.

The Ministry of Education’s briefing includes a section on Māori language in education. It notes that the Ministry’s arrangements for Māori language, while well meaning, have been reactive and ad hoc. To address this issue, the Ministry notes a priority for the next three years to complete and implement the Māori Language in Education Strategy – Te Mai Te Reo. This will set the strategic direction including funding investment for Māori language in education from 2012-2017. The briefing sets out other priorities for Māori language in education, including work with and for iwi, whānau and national Māori organisations; research and evaluation; and capability and capacity in Māori language in education. The briefing notes that Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success and the Pasifika Education Plan both emphasise the importance of education that is responsive to the identity, language, and culture of learners.

Race Relations Day 2012

Race Relations Day marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is marked internationally on 21 March, which falls on a Wednesday this year. The 2012 theme is “A Fair Go for All”.

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Many community events will take place on the weekends of 17-18 March and 24-25 March, with school activities taking place from 19-23 March. Check out all the festivals and events happening near you. If you or your organisation is planning an event to celebrate, email us.

Community groups, councils, schools, workplaces, marae and places of worship are encouraged to celebrate the value of cultural diversity and the need to support harmonious race relations.

Race Relations Day is a time when you, your organisation or community can do something to celebrate, learn, discuss, plan or promote diversity, including languages. It’s an opportunity to launch new initiatives, motivate your staff, or promote existing programmes and projects.

Kōhanga Reo celebrates 30 years

The Kōhanga Reo National Trust, and Kōhanga Reo around the country, will mark their 30th anniversary this year.

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Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust was established in 1982 and formalised as a charitable trust in 1983. The mission of the Trust is the protection of te reo, tikanga me ngā āhuatanga Māori by targeting the participation of mokopuna and whānau into the Kōhanga Reo movement. Its vision is to totally immerse kōhanga mokopuna in Te Reo, Tikanga me ngā āhuatanga Māori.

The first Kōhanga Reo, Pukeatua, was opened in 1982 near Wellington. From 1982 to 1989 Kōhanga Reo flourished in an environment of excitement and celebration. One hundred Kōhanga Reo were established in 1982 and growth continued until 1994 when there were 800 Kōhanga Reo catering for 14,000 mokopuna.

The Trust is at the Waitangi Tribunal this week for a hearing of its urgent claim concerning early childhood education.

For more information about Kōhanga Reo visit the website or Facebook page.

The Australian Government has launched a web portal for information in community languages. The portal is a good example of what can be done to provide information to diverse communities. 

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MyLanguage has links to millions of multilingual information resources for new and emergent Australian communities. It has links to multilingual search engines, web directories, government websites, online dictionaries, and syndicated news headlines. It also has translations of online government and community information relating to health, legal issues, settlement, education and public libraries.

Zdravei! Language Line adds Bulgarian

Bulgarian is the newly listed language at Language Line. This brings to the number of languages available to 43.

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Language Line's manager, Diana Clark says she hopes the addition will help those members of the community who might otherwise be isolated. Languages are usually added when there is concerted demand or a demonstrated need from the community.

Alongside Māori, which is an official language of New Zealand, the Pacific Island languages offered are: Cook Island Maori, Niuean, Samoan, Tokelauan, Tongan, and Tuvaluan. Samoan and Tongan are most frequently requested, but even they are topped by the most used of all: Mandarin.

Language Line enjoys steady and growing support from people who don't speak English and recently passed a milestone of more than 250,000 interpreting sessions.

Following research into the use of interpreters, Dr Ben Gray, Jo Hilder and Dr Maria Stubbe from the Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice in Wellington have developed New Zealand’s first toolkit for primary health care professionals in this area of rapidly growing need.

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Details have just been published in the NZ Journal of Primary Health Care.

“New Zealand is now very much a multicultural society, and increasingly GPs and other health professionals are managing patients who have limited or very little English,” says Dr Gray.

“If they don’t understand one another clearly, both doctor and patient are at risk in terms of best diagnosis, and meeting the requirements of the Health and Disability Code.”

 For years Dr Gray worked at the Newtown Union Health Centre in Wellington, treating patients from over 20 countries, where it was relatively common to use interpreters. But his research shows this is unusual, and too many health professionals are still trying to ‘muddle through’ in a rapidly changing cultural environment.

The comprehensive interpreter toolkit, informed by evidence-based research and Dr Gray’s wide experience in this area, has been supported by the Royal NZ College of General Practitioners. It sets out a series of flow charts, scenarios and information boxes to improve communication with limited English patients, and is available through the College.

“We’re hoping this toolkit will be the start of a cultural change, where health professionals recognise that every consultation with limited English patients requires clinical judgment on the quality of interpreting needed.”

“To facilitate the use of interpreters it is also vital that District Health Boards, as is happening in Auckland, provide some funding for interpreter use for primary care services and in areas such as Emergency Departments.”

Seeflow services for the Deaf community

Seeflow is a new online initiative specialising in NZSL services for the Deaf community. Services include professional translation of documents from English to NZSL, and of NZSL messages to English via an innovative online video recording system.

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Seeflow also offer a grammar checking and proof reading service, as well as a service called “NZSL Letter” which enables organisations and Government departments to send translations of public information, or private correspondence via a secure system.

Seeflow was developed and is run by Deafradio, a Deaf-lead company with other services including Multichannel Media who have worked on a number of large translation projects, as well as on the NZSL Curriculum project (nzsl.tki.org.nz). Partnering with Connect Interpreting, who specialise in developing specialist NZSL Interpreting services, the combination aims to make NZSL translation commonplace, resulting in a more NZSL accessible society.

Deafradio Creative Director Sonia Pivac says “during our work on the larger translation projects, we began to appreciate that access issues for Deaf people are mostly smaller items of written material – letters from the hospital, newsletters from a club or brochures about government services. Even emails from the boss can create access issues, as well as creating emails or reports when your first language is NZSL. So we decided to try and address this by developing a streamlined dedicated service for enabling access to these everyday requirements. Our hope is that when these little things are addressed, Deaf people will be able to dramatically increase their independence and participation in parts of society that matter to them”.

Seeflow, the first translation service of its kind in the world, is now live and can be seen at www.seeflow.co.nz. Registration is free, as is signing up for their newsletter, which includes public announcements.

Sukhmani Charitable Trust

The Sukhmani Charitable Trust offers a Punjabi language programme for children. It has now moved to a Gurdwara in New Lynn, where it will offer expanded services for newcomers to New Zealand.

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The Sukhmani Charitable Trust began in 2008 with its Punjabi language programme.

The programme was run from the garage of a community minded and committed Indian couple living in Blockhouse Bay. The programme now includes art and music lessons to help enhance the children’s artistic inclinations. For more information about this programme please email Malvinder Pal Singh.

Newly expanded services include assisting young Indian migrants arriving in the country as international students then moving on to graduate job search permit.  In partnership with Migrant Action Trust, Sukhami Charitable Trust also runs a job search workshop on the third Friday of the month from 3 to 6pm. For more information about the job search workshop please email Narinder Grawalat or migrantaction@xtra.co.nz.

Somali language for kids

NKOD Somali Youth Development Inc was formed in June 2010. One of the aims is to fill the needs of the young Somali in different aspects of their life. In August 2010, the “Somali Language for Kids programme” for children aged 4 to 8 was started.

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Despite having no budget, the programme managed to start with 8 children, thanks to the kindness of a Somali teacher named Hussein Fahar. The programme is now run at Wesley Community Centre where an average of 20 children comes every Sunday afternoon for a 3-hour class in the Somali language.

When the children were asked why they think there is a need for a Somali language class they provided some very mature answers, such as:

  • So we can translate for our parents and grandparents who don’t speak English
  • So we can speak to our friends and relatives when we go to Somalia
  • Before we learn another language, we should first learn our own language.

For children of refugee families, learning their own language provides a sense of self-worth and identity. The well-being of an individual starts from knowing the self, where you belong and being accepted into the community you believe you belong.

For more information about the language programme, please email Abdikarim Hassan Mohamed, President of ONKOD Somali Youth Development Inc.

Porirua College has launched the Pacific Languages Community College, to deliver an ‘after three’ programme of Samoan, Tongan, Cook Island Māori te reo Māori and Tokelau language tuition to adult learners.

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There has been a great deal of interest in the programme from the community. The launch took place on 23 February with coverage from Tagata Pasifika.

Give way rule change: resources

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres has welcomed multi-lingual resources by the NZ Transport Agency. The resources will help linguistically diverse communities understand changes to give way rules.

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The rule changes come into effect on Sunday 25 March. Resources are now available on the NZ Transport Agency’s website in Māori, NZ Sign Language, Japanese, Korean, Tradition and Simplified Chinese, Thai, Arabic, Samoan, Tongan, Gujurati, Hini and Punjabi.

Mātauranga Māori live on TKI

The Mātauranga Māori website has recently been launched on the Ministry of Education’s website Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI). This site was previously known as Māori Education.

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The website provides resources and information about teaching and learning in Māori-medium such as support material for each learning area, a teacher resource exchange, news, events, professional learning opportunities, and information about offline resources. The site can be navigated in English or te reo Māori. If you are a Māori medium teacher looking for resources, visit the Mātauranga Māori website today.

English language for new migrants

Aoraki Polytechnic is now an approved provider of the English for Migrants fund. 

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This means that residents who have prepaid for English language tuition through Immigration New Zealand, can now use this fund to cover the cost of English Language programmes at Aoraki Polytechnic.

For details visit www.aoraki.ac.nz , email study@aoraki.ac.nz or call 0800 426 725.

Future Events

Pacific Language Forum

Reverend Uesifili Unasa, Forum Chair, invites you to attend the Pacific Languages Forum on Tuesday 27 March 2012, 9am- 4pm at Fickling Convention Centre 546 Mt Albert Road, Three Kings.

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The purpose of the forum is to share current Pacific Language Initiatives; for a presentation and discussions on key issues facing Pacific languages; and to create partnerships.

To register your attendance contact Yara Richmond Ph (09) 265 3228 by 21 March 2012.

CLESOL 2012 call for submissions

The CLESOL 2012 committee invites submissions of abstracts for individual papers, workshops, colloquia, five-minute brilliant ideas and posters.

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Presentations, workshops, and colloquia that relate to the conference theme - Emerging opportunities in new learning spaces: He akoranga hou, he huarahi hou- are especially welcome, but all topics relevant to language teaching and learning will be considered.

 The committee encourages first-time presenters, especially those from the primary and secondary sectors, and hopes to establish support from more experienced ones.  

The deadline for submissions is 2 April. For more information visit the webpage.


The National Samoan Advisory Council and FAGASA’s national fono will be hosted in Dunedin this year, from 4pm, Monday 10 to Thursday 12 April. 10-13 April.   Continue reading…

Attendance fees ($300 for FAGASA member $350 for non member, an extra $50 late fees after 30 March) cover food and accommodation.

The theme of this year’s fono is "Ole Gagana Samoa ole u Ta'afale"  Language is a global arrow.

For more information contact Afamasaga Pavihi.

Mandarin Corner and Chinese Film

Mandarin Corner meets 3.15pm – 5.00pm on Saturdays during school term at Room 103, 24 Kelburn Parade, Victoria University of Wellington.

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Remaining sessions and topics in March:

17 March – World Consumer Rights Day (15 March) 

24 March – Qingming Festival (4 April 2012, Ancestors Day)

31 March - Chinese Tea Appreciation (An interesting and interactive demonstration by Lihong Huang)

Chinese Film sessions will begin with “Farewell my Concubine” on Thursday 29 March Time:  7.00pm - 9:30pm at Wellington City Council buildings, 101 Wakefield Street.

Entrance to Mandarin Corner or Chinese Film is by gold coin donation. Contact Ellen Yang Ph (04) 473-7558.