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Learning pathways


The New Zealand Curriculum principle of coherence (page 9) envisions:

“a broad education that makes links within and across learning areas, provides for coherent transitions, and opens up pathways to further learning.”

NZC, p.9

Students need to see how learning languages connects with the other learning areas and to life outside school. When they do, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged.

Language learning programmes (within and across years) need to equate to more than the sum of their parts. Nothing should feel isolated or be a dead end.

In years 11–13, students may specialise within languages or take courses that are broader.


Communication is the most important focus in language learning. When teachers and students discuss the reasons why they are learning languages, and use their new language in real life contexts and for genuine communicative purposes while they are learning, they gain a clear sense of continuity and direction for their future learning.

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Successful transitions

Early childhood learning

Te Whāriki, the curriculum for early childhood education, provides children with a foundation for ongoing learning. It establishes the bicultural nature of the curriculum.

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Learning in years 1–6

This stage in children’s learning builds upon and makes connections with early childhood learning and experiences.

Programmes for teaching and learning languages may be developed in connection with learning experiences across other learning areas.

Learning in years 7–10

Schools are working towards including learning languages in their school-based curriculum and “offering students opportunities for learning a second or subsequent language” (The New Zealand Curriculum, page 44).

The learning languages achievement objectives are based on the key competencies and connect with other learning areas.

Learning experiences need to include opportunities for students to be involved in genuine social interaction with other speakers of the language, locally and globally.

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Where students are working at different levels, teachers need to find ways to enable them all to progress in their learning. Some ways to do this are through cross-curricular connections, distance or e-learning programmes, and in-school and community support.

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Where students do not continue with language learning in the senior school, they need to know that options to continue learning a language, or to learn a new language, remain open to them. It is also helpful to discuss with them how learning another language has contributed to their development in the key competencies.

Learning in years 11–13

Depending on what choices their schools are able to offer, students may specialise within learning languages or include language learning with other courses, to gain credits towards a range of recognised qualifications.

Schools can extend this range by making it possible for students to advance their language learning:

Tertiary education and employment

Tertiary education offers students opportunities to pursue their language learning.

The knowledge, skills, and competencies acquired through learning a language can also support and enrich study in other disciplines, such as history, law, business studies, social sciences, health, and education, among others.

Developing proficiency and cross-cultural skills in languages spoken within communities in New Zealand is a career advantage as our country continues to diversify culturally and welcomes growing numbers of tourists, students, and migrants from other countries.

Students with proficiency in a language other than English play an important role in local tourism and New Zealand’s export business.

The cross-cultural and communicative competence coming from language learning is an advantage for students who go on to study or work overseas, where competition for jobs is fierce.

In today’s world, change is a given. Schools are preparing students for jobs and opportunities that don’t yet exist. Learning another language helps to promote breadth of outlook and flexibility to cope with future challenges. Staying engaged in ongoing language learning (of the same or different languages) will be more attractive to students if they know that the pathway they are following is a career advantage, both within and beyond New Zealand.

Learning for life

Opportunities to learn a language are increasingly available to people of all ages, from beginner courses to those catering for more advanced levels. Having the motivation to take up those opportunities is the challenge.

Learning languages provides opportunities for students to become active seekers, users, and creators of knowledge as they travel, network, and explore the wider world.

Technological advances provide greater accessibility to the world and other languages.

Social networking has opened up a whole new world of relationships that is enhanced by language learning.

Identity development

Learning about other cultures through language helps students understand their own identities. It is only when they understand themselves (their values, culture, skills, interests, and capabilities) that they can make informed career decisions, and good decisions on other important matters.

Student exchanges arranged through organisations such as AFS (American Field Service) and LIA (Language Immersion Awards) provide excellent opportunities for students to enhance their intercultural communicative competence and further develop their sense of who they are.

'It was a period of my life that I will always value. My exchange taught me to appreciate what I know of the world, what people think of my home country, and what life is like for others. It was an opportunity to think about who I am outside of my usual friendships, and what I am good at and what I want to improve in myself.'

AFS brochure

Community involvement

Language learning provides opportunities to bring the community and the school together; for example, by getting involved in community events such as cultural festivals (the Lantern Festival, Diwali Festival, or Pasifika Festival), going to Deaf community events such as Deaf clubs, or by exploring issues of concern with local iwi or Deaf advocacy groups.

Young people who look for opportunities to use their language skills in the community may find them by meeting and befriending international students, getting to know the neighbours, assisting tourists in the street, or through work experience in a local industry that has employees who speak the target language; for example, one young person working in a local restaurant was able to use his German language to converse with patrons. During international events, teams from many countries arrive in New Zealand, needing interpreters, tour guides, and host families … the opportunities to use an additional language are more readily available than they have ever been.

Last updated February 21, 2023