Language is a necessity. It is our passport to each other and
As this world becomes smaller and more accessible with each
technological development, language becomes more than simply
a tool for effective communication.
It becomes the key to the door of cultural acceptance and
New Zealand, a land of endless cultures and colours, can no
longer rest upon the groaning support of the lonely English
Learning to communicate with others can no longer be regarded
as the frill on the edge of New Zealand's education system.
Compulsory language learning is vital in maintaining our
standing in the world.
''Oh, a bit of a smartypants, are you?'' is the typical Kiwi
response when someone finds out that you learn German at
It's seen as academically exclusive, only to be attempted by
the most studious of pupils.
Language classes are the smallest in our schools.
Often pupils are held back from realising their linguistic
potential until the senior school.
At this point, learning to say ''I like to play soccer. What
is your favourite colour?'' is no longer an exciting
We are missing the best learning years by delaying language
New Zealanders ''snob'' language learning with excuses of
distance and irrelevance.
Contrast this with that of other countries.
In England, reforms are proposed to make foreign language
learning compulsory for all pupils from 7 years old.
Within the European Union, close to 100% of pupils learn
English at primary school, of whom 94.6% continue with
foreign languages at secondary school.
This is indicative of the increasing realisation that a
country with an abundance of linguistically educated workers
is a country whose voices can extend further into the world.
Horizons are widened, more conferences are accessible, more
business contacts are made.
Meanwhile, New Zealand insists on living in a one language
world, with a lack of empathy.
Individuals are given a social and an economic edge.
They enjoy enhanced listening and speaking skills from a
young age, becoming more respectful of difference and with an
added boost as they prepare to enter an extremely selective
Developing your foreign vernacular even has medical benefits.
A recent study showed the onset of Alzheimers can be delayed
by up to four years.
In our quiet backwater, we have suffered in the past from
separation, but now the internet is allowing us to connect
with the linguistic reality of the world, without having to
Distance is no longer an excuse.
It is often felt that learning another language is a waste in
a country which often struggles to bring its lower achievers
up to the bar in English literacy. Yet learning new ways of
expressing yourself actually builds upon a child's mother
In fact, not offering languages in primary schools could be
seen as detrimental to a child's wider education.
Children getting a better education means the country getting
a better future.
The world is becoming increasingly open.
We must keep up with all the opportunities presented.
Language is the nutrition of life and children need constant
So come on, New Zealand. It's time to vamp up our vernacular.
• By Caitlin Spence, Year 12, Kavanagh College