An online magazine of news and opinions from the Asia New Zealand Foundation

Is English enough in the Asian Century?

Should second language learning be compulsory in New Zealand schools? Should certain languages be given more priority than others? And why bother learning another language at all when English is the dominant language of business internationally?

Educational and business experts tackled these topics and more while participating in an Asia New Zealand Foundation forum - “Is English enough in the Asian Century?” – in Hamilton in September.

The forum was facilitated by former Radio New Zealand National broadcaster Chris Laidlaw. Asia New Zealand Foundation executive director John McKinnon opened the forum with Associate Professor Ed Weymes, the University of Waikato’s Pro-vice Chancellor (International).

Weymes said the university was heavily involved in international education. However, “the number of students studying an international language is embarrassingly low”.

Listen to the panelists share their thoughts on language learning in New Zealand.

  • Professor Stephen May, Deputy Dean, Research, Faculty of Education, Te Puna Wānanga, School of Māori Education, University of Auckland - Professor May talks about the cognitive benefits of being bilingual and multilingual, and argues multilingual speakers of English are the ones with the advantages in today’s world. (Podcast - 8.33mins)
  • Jeff Johnstone, Director Education, Asia New Zealand Foundation - Johnstone talks about the importance of equipping five-year-olds with an Asian language to help them thrive in the “Asian Century”. (Podcast - 7.52mins)
  • Ian Meadows, Business Development Manager, Security, Gallagher Group - Meadows argues New Zealand companies should support their employees to learn languages, and shares his own experiences learning bits of languages. (Podcast - 8.56mins)
  • Laytee George, Educational Relationships Coordinator – Schools at Waiariki Institute of Technology, Rotorua - George describes her involvement in Chinese language learning in Rotorua over two decades and the growth in interest from children, parents and teachers. (Podcast - 13.09mins)
  • Kurt Mullane, Director, Asia Education Foundation (AEF), The Asialink Centre, University of Melbourne - Mullane shares the work being done on language learning in Australia, and describes bilingualism and multilingualism as new global currencies. (Podcast - 12.01mins)
  • William Flavell, Head of Māori Studies at Rutherford College, Auckland - Flavell shares his personal experiences on the benefits of speaking three languages and discusses the importance of te reo Māori. (Podcast - 9.32mins)

October 2013