Learning Languages

Learning Languages is one of the eight learning areas specified in the New Zealand Curriculum and holds a vital place in a rich education. In Learning Languages, students learn to communicate in an additional language, develop their capacity to learn further languages, and explore different world views in relation to their own. Through this area of study, students learn to relate and connect to others, actively participate in their local communities and as international citizens, value cultural and linguistic diversity and respect themselves and others.

The language learning area is made up of three strands; Communication, Language Knowledge, and Cultural Knowledge. Communication is at the core and focuses on students learning to use the language to make meaning both receptively (listening, reading, viewing) and productively (speaking, writing and presenting). As the supporting strands increase their linguistic and cultural knowledge, they become more accurate and appropriate in their use of language, ultimately making them more effective communicators.

Studying languages helps to develop a variety of important skills and qualities both in an academic and personal sense. It strengthens literacy studies, develops communication skills and prepares students for living in a diverse, multicultural society and an increasingly globally interconnected world.

See the Learning Area Statement and the Achievement Objectives for Learning Languages.


Learning Languages and Key Competencies

Learning Languages enables students to practise all of the 5 Key Competencies of the New Zealand curriculum and therefore strive towards their development goals. They key competencies are integral parts of what Learning Languages entails for students, as detailed below:

Thinking - In languages, thinking often includes such processes as deducing a rule, inferring meaning from a text, finding a pattern, deciding on appropriate words to follow a stem, and using language functions such as explaining, classifying, comparing, and evaluating. Metacognitive processes (learning to learn) are also used in language study, which challenges the way in which students think.

Using language, symbols and texts - This competency is at the core of language learning across all three strands – communication, language knowledge, and cultural knowledge. Using language, symbols, and texts involves all the language skills – listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing, and presenting or performing. To be proficient in this competency means being aware of language at word, sentence, and whole-text level and draw on their knowledge of a wide range of language features and text types to communicate effectively with audiences for specific purposes.

Managing self - Students learn how to manage themselves when they demonstrate that they can find opportunities to learn, use, and practise the target language, building on their own strengths and addressing their own identified learning needs. Learning Languages also raises ideas of identity, which is inherent in managing self.

Relating to others - This competency is about interacting effectively with a diverse range of people in a variety of contexts. It includes the ability to listen actively, recognise different points of view, negotiate, and share ideas. Intercultural communicative language teaching is at the heart of learning languages in the New Zealand Curriculum. From the beginning, students explore culture-in-language and of the perspectives of others. They also develop listening and negotiation skills in order to become effective communicators.

Participating and contributing - This involves developing a sense of responsibility and a sense of belonging. When students are involved in communicative language learning activities, they learn to take a share of responsibility for maintaining communication. They develop their sense of themselves and their own points of view and also learn about those of others. Exploring the world views of other people helps students to mature as citizens of local communities, nations, and the world.


10 Principles of Language Learning

These general principles were identified by Ellis (2005) for second language (L2) acquisition. They are helpful to consider when designing effective language learning programmes and are best put into actioned and tested by teachers in their own teaching contexts.

1.  Instruction needs to ensure that learners develop both a rich repertoire of formulaic expressions and a rule-based competence. 
2.  Instruction needs to ensure that learners focus predominantly on meaning.
3.  Instruction needs to ensure that learners focus on form.
4.  Instruction needs to be predominantly directed at developing implicit knowledge of the L2 while not neglecting explicit knowledge.
5.  Instruction needs to take into account the learner’s “built-in-syllabus”.
6.  Successful instructed language learning required extensive L2 input.
7.  Successful instructed language learning also requires opportunities for output.
8.  The opportunity to interact in the L2 is central to developing L2 proficiency.
9.  Instruction needs to take account of individual differences in learners.
10.  In assessing learners’ proficiency, it is important to examine free as well as controlled production.


About Learning Languages

Learning Languages provides a means of communicating with people from another culture and exploring one’s own personal world Languages and cultures play a key role in defining and developing our personal, group, national, and human identitiesEvery language has its own ways of expressing meaning which holds intrinsic value and special significance Oral, written, and verbal forms of language link us to the past and give us access to new and different streams of thoughtLanguages link people both locally and globallyInteraction in a new language introduces you to new ways of thinking about, questioning, and interpreting the worldLearning a language provides the cognitive tools and strategies to learn further languagesAs students move between and respond to different languages and different cultural practices, they are challenged to consider their own identities and assumptionsLanguages are inseparably linked to the social and cultural contexts in which they are usedAs students learn a new language, they develop their understanding of the power of languageLearning languages helps to develop students' self-confidence and awareness of effective communication  Students of languages acquire knowledge, skills, and attitudes that equip them for living in a world of diverse peoples, languages, and cultures  Learning languages is important for the social, cultural, economic, and environmental well-being and growth of New Zealand