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Why learn a second language?

Electronic media, immigration, and ease of travel are making the world (and New Zealand) increasingly international and bringing us into contact with people from other cultures. This means that being able to communicate across cultural boundaries is more important than ever. The single most important step we can take towards doing this effectively is to learn another language. In many countries, learning more than one language is the norm.

There are lots of good reasons

Students often choose to study a language to which they have an existing cultural, family, or community connection. But there are many other possible reasons. For example, students might be interested in:

  • travelling to other countries and learning about other cultures
  • learning about celebrations, festivals, and cuisines of other cultures
  • exploring and enjoying films, fashion, music, and the popular culture of another country
  • communicating more effectively with members of their own family who do not speak English
  • learning more about how languages work
  • communicating with friends from around the world via social networking opportunities
  • participating in cultural and sports exchanges.

Learning a second language can bring a great deal of personal satisfaction and pleasure. It can also open up a much broader range of future work opportunities by:

  • making it easier to work, travel, and study in other countries
  • making it easier to communicate and understand business culture, both inside and outside New Zealand
  • developing the skills to work across cultures
  • providing access to a wider range of ideas and knowledge
  • generally strengthening literacy skills.

Learn more about yourself, and your own culture, too

Learning a language is not just about opening up opportunities for work and travel – it is likely to prove a journey of personal discovery. Experience of other cultures can help us understand and appreciate our own.

In the broad picture, young people who learn a second language acquire knowledge, skills, and understandings that are important for the social, cultural, economic, and environmental well-being of New Zealand.

What language shall I learn?

Learning any language is worthwhile, but the rationale for learning a specific language (rather than other possible languages) will vary greatly.

Teachers are encouraged to work with colleagues and students to develop rationales specific to the language(s) they teach.

Last updated August 28, 2012