International languages in primary schools: Aims, constraints, and one way forward
Barnard, R. (2006). International languages in primary schools: Aims, constraints, and one way forward. In Proceedings of The New Zealand Association of Language Teachers Biennial Conference: 'Bridging Cultures, Reaching Heights", Auckland, New Zealand; 2-5 July 2006 (pp.1-10).
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/8560
The present policy of the Ministry of Education is that all schools should offer instruction in an additional language from Year 7 to Year 10. The additional languages may be te reo Māori, a Pacific language, or one of several international languages. This paper focuses on the latter, and suggests that, at the present time, it would be unwise in many schools to introduce foreign language instruction in Year 7, and instead a focus should be placed on the development of students’ intercultural awareness. This paper begins with a brief review of the present policy and the benefits which are assumed to accrue from learning languages. It then discusses the existing constraints affecting language teaching in our primary schools, many of which are also faced in other countries which have introduced foreign language instruction in their primary schools. The most important of these constraints in New Zealand, as elsewhere, is the shortage of linguistically competent and appropriately trained second language teachers, A brief consideration is paid to the limited amount of professional development available to primary teachers in this country, many of whom have little, or even no, knowledge of the target language. The multimedia packs, which have been produced for the teaching and learning of international languages in schools, assume that teachers can learn the target language at the same time as teaching it to their students. It is suggested that, until teachers are professionally prepared for the teaching of an international language, actual language instruction should be deferred. The focus of instruction in Year 7 could instead be directed towards an understanding of the culture of the target language. This possibility is then explored by considering the syllabus and type of classroom activities which might allow teachers to promote their students’ intercultural awareness, key competencies of which are outlined. At the same time, the designated teachers could take steps to develop at least a basic competence in the target language and can receive professional development in appropriate strategies and techniques of second language teaching.
This article has been published in the Proceedings of The New Zealand Association of Language Teachers Biennial Conference: 'Bridging Cultures, Reaching Heights".