Lining up Languages

If you build it, and it’s good, sometimes they really will come.

That was certainly the case for the Office of Ethnic Communities in Wellington last week.  More than 150 people from around New Zealand gathered at Te Papa for the first ever Lining Up Languages: Navigating Policy and Programmes conference. Aimed at fostering discussion about government policy and activity in relation to language use and learning in New Zealand, the two-day conference brought together a range of speakers from government, academia and the private and not-for-profit sectors to work together to develop language use and learning in New Zealand.

Berlinda Chin, Director of the Office of Ethnic Communities, says the conference was valuable not only for providing a common platform for experts from across the languages spectrum, but also for opening critical dialogue on topics as diverse as learning English as a second language, New Zealanders’ rights in relation to language, heritage language acquisition and the Maori Language Strategy.

“I was thrilled to see such a good turnout and input from language teachers, linguists, translators, interpreters, government officials and members of ethnic communities,” says Berlinda.
“The journey of language is a dynamic one and we were pleased to be able to bring together key stakeholders under one roof so they could connect with one another.”
A key issue to emerge from the conference was the need for greater development of the interpreting industry, particularly in connection with the medical sector and the use of refugees’ children having to interpret for them with medical professionals.

“We also got some valuable feedback, ideas and insights into how attendees felt languages should be developed and the importance of this for our cultural identity and that of our nation, as well as a tool for contributing to the financial well-being of New Zealand.”

Speakers at Lining Up Languages: Navigating Policy and Programmes included the Minister for Ethnic Communities, Hon Peseta Sam Lotu-liga, Race Relations Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy, and representatives from the Ministries of Education, Pacific Island Affairs, Justice and Business, Innovation and Employment as well as other language experts including the Asia New Zealand Foundation, COMET Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington.