Ah, finally... New Zealand did once have Maori-language newspapers. The Herald can manage to translate its masthead and a few articles into Te Reo for a week each year.
Hey, cool. That's one of my daughter's favourites, and she's picking up a few Spanish words and phrases from Dora and Go, Diego, Go! I don't think I have the bandwidth to watch it out here, but when we get back down to Beijing I'll see how she responds to seeing Dora in Maori.
The other half of the statement is that adults can’t learn languages easily which really isn’t true. What is true is adult don’t learn languages.
Absolutely. Ooh, the excuses I've heard... Then one of my classmates at Otago was 69 or 70 when we graduated, she did a double major in French and Chinese, Chinese being Mandarin learned from scratch. One evening here in Beijing I was talking to another guy about how much harder it is to learn Mandarin now than it had been to learn French at school, and we were rightly interrupted by Jim (might not be his real name, but whatever) who said, "Look at me! I'm 65 and learning Mandarin and doing fine! It's got nothing to do with age and everything to do with how much effort you put in." Yup.
As for all those companies and all their.... bite my tongue. There are many, many problems in language education. Best advice I can give anyone wanting to learn another language is choose your resources carefully, find what works for you, but really, Nike: Just do it. And the internet means you have so many more resources available, including for Te Reo Maori. And some really, truly obscure languages.
I paid for that failure by having to learn how to write good essays at the same time as I was learning my science.
Experience suggests a hell of a lot of people are in the same boat. Generalisation alert: The Chinese school system teaches the kind of hyper-emotional writing that could get you a good career as an op-ed writer for the NZ Herald, and so I spend an awful lot of my writing classes trying to persuade students to unlearn that. When they start university, Chinese students simply have no idea what academic writing is. Most of the academic writing textbooks I've seen on sale in the shops here are imported from the USA and seem to be what's used for those Freshman Comp courses they teach over there. There are numerous problems with them, not least of which is the simple fact that localisation is not slapping a local-language cover and introduction onto an otherwise unchanged product (hint: the death penalty and gun control are not controversial topics in China), but the biggest problem is they teach the same kind of hyper-emotional writing. Not academic at all, regardless of what the title says. I suspect the bigger problem here is not the failure to communicate the importance of learning one language or another, but a failure at a more fundamental level of literacy education in the school system. High school students need to learn to construct a logical argument based on factual evidence. I don't recall being taught much of that at high school ([ahem] not that I was paying all that much attention - French and German were far more interesting), and I see no evidence the situation has improved anywhere. So it seems to me just about everybody learns how to write a decent essay the same way you did - right as they're doing the work that requires those writing skills.
I could sit here ranting all day on the subject of language learning. As a language geek, I got plenty of that "why waste your time on that? Study something useful!" nonsense (I'm working really hard to stay polite here). Really, what could be more useful than language? What could be more useful than communication? None of your science or engineering or medicine or law happens without it.
I also feel we've been labouring under a false idea of utility for far too long. A focus on skills of immediate practical use like hacking down trees and putting in fence posts was probably all well and good in pioneering days, but NZ has moved on since then. It's long since time we valued a wider range of skills. And about the only thing I've ever agreed with Bob Jones on is the need for people to study truly useful stuff like the humanities. Naturally, my own emphasis is on languages, but let me remind you all, NZ depends on international trade for its survival, always has, always will. And contrary to popular belief, the world is not learning English so that we don't need to learn other languages. Yes, English is the No. 1 dominant international language of science, technology, trade and international affairs, but:
1: There are several other international languages.
2: Still, the overwhelming majority of people in this world are not learning English. Gotta learn their languages to communicate with them.
3: Relying on others to learn English to provide translators for us puts us at a multitude of disadvantages. One is the growing resentment of local staff at having to babysit linguistically incompetent monolingual staff flown in from overseas (yes, I have seen and heard, it is not pretty, and I sympathise. I've had to do more than a lot of that babysitting myself).
But all my experience has been with foreign languages. I was born two years after Duncan Garner, and what I remember of te reo instruction in the many primary schools I attended is very much what Lucy Stewart describes. I would've thought the ten-year gap would've been enough time to improve the situation. It's been interesting watching from this distance the very slow bilingualisation of NZ, from the slow decrease in the number of common Maori words the NZ Herald feels the need to provide a translation for, through the increasingly bilingual passports (I suppose one advantage of 5-year passports is it sped that process up, but still, can we go back to 10 years like the rest of the world?), to the appearance of fully bilingual signs at Wellington Zoo and many other places last time we were in NZ, to my daughter's fully bilingual citizenship certificate. And by fully bilingual I mean both languages equally represented in equal size print, the entire document appearing in both languages, not the smaller sized Maori version tacked on at the end as is still so often the case. Some of the books my mum has sent my daughter have been bilingual in that tokenist sense, the main text with full-size pictures in English, then Maori in compressed version tacked on at the end. And, of course, Maori TV.
Still, the stats showing a slow decline in speakers of Te Reo continue to worry.
Sorry, my train of thought was interrupted, now I can't remember where I was going with this. I'll just leave off saying that a multilingual populace is a Good Thing and it should start with NZ's own languages.
My main problem in Germany last year was picking up phrases quickly enough to apparently *sound* like I spoke some German when I ordered things,
I had the same problem in Norway, and telling people in Norwegian that I didn't understand and asking them to speak English did not help, they just kept speaking to me in Norwegian.
I was faintly embarrassed traveling through Europe
That's a bit unnecessary, Craig. The world is full of languages and you're never going to learn any more than a handful of them, no matter how hard you try. We've always had lingua francas, and always will, for precisely that reason. It's not the travellers unable to converse in the local language that irritate me, it's those living there long-term who make no effort to learn, and there's unfortunately no shortage of them.