Learning Languages

Learning Languages is one of eight learning areas specified in the New Zealand Curriculum and holds a vital place in a rich education.

Students learn to communicate in an additional language, develop capacity to learn further languages, and explore different world views in relation to their own. 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;

  1. Communication
  2. Language Knowledge
  3. 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.

Find out more about the Learning Area Structure and see Achievement Objectives

New Zealand Curriculum

10 Principles of Language Learning
Key Competencies
About Learning Languages

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 action 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 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.

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

  1. Thinking - Deducing a rule, inferring meaning from 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 used in language study, which challenges the way in which students think.
  2. Using language, symbols and texts - Core of language learning across all three strands – communication, language knowledge, and cultural knowledge. Using language, symbols, and texts involves all 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 knowledge of a wide range of language features and text types to communicate effectively with audiences for specific purposes.
  3. 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.
  4. Relating to others - 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.
  5. Participating and contributing - Involves developing a sense of responsibility and belonging. They learn to take a share of responsibility for maintaining communication. Students 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.
  • 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 identities 
  • Every 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 thought 
  • Languages link people both locally and globally 
  • Interaction in a new language introduces you to new ways of thinking about, questioning, and interpreting the world 
  • Learning a language provides the cognitive tools and strategies to learn further languages
  • As students move between and respond to different languages and different cultural practices, they are challenged to consider their own identities and assumptions 
  • Languages are inseparably linked to the social and cultural contexts in which they are used 
  • As students learn a new language, they develop their understanding of the power of language 
  • Helps to develop students' self-confidence and awareness of effective communication 
  • Students acquire knowledge, skills, and attitudes that equip them for living in a world of diverse peoples, languages, and cultures 
  • Learning languages is important for social, cultural, economic, and environmental well-being and growth of New Zealand