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Tag: language

Passing sentence – hard labour


So they don’t speak in sentences anymore! So trumpets a headline in a recent press report.

Apparently there is anecdotal evidence that young people are entering school and not speaking in sentences. Let’s accept for the sake of argument that those making this assertion are in a position to make such a judgment. What’s the explanation?

Well the immediate response is to lay the blame at the feet of electronic devices and media.

There might be an element of truth in this but it is not likely that the actions of little ones with their cute iPads or toy smart phones bring such a factor into consideration but the actions of their parents. Walk along any city street, or through a shopping mall or anywhere that grown up and especially young parents congregate with children and you will see the many adults giving closer attention to their texts and messages and whatever on their devices than they are to quality interaction with their children. One can only imagine that the situation is even worse at home where presumably the children are in a environment that requires even less attention from the parent.

Children develop language through a variety of factors. They arrive at the task with an innate desire to communicate through their eyes and their ears. They start with sound, move onto words and then proceed to put words together. They pick up patterns and rules and this process shows sometimes in the “mistakes” they make. “I for-nearly-got to put my underpants on,” said my son one morning. “I cutted my finger.”

They are acute observers of such patterns as emerge from the language they hear. Again, my son when told that we were going to go and see Granddad asked the question “Which one? ‘Golly Gosh’ or ‘Crikey Dick’?” He had observed that each grandfather had their own particular exclamation that they used and probably in fairly identical situations. Don’t underestimate the power of the young person when it comes to language learning.

In fact, the world’s population actually manage to learn their language to varying degrees without the help of schools, often in states of poverty and hunger, regardless of culture or faith. In fact one applied linguist claimed that it wasn’t learning language that was hard, but learning it in classrooms. Most young learners achieve excellent levels of language use with knowing a stick of grammar. Knowledge of grammar is useful for the most elegant and sophisticated uses of the language and is best learned when comparisons between language are possible. A child learning Maori and English will at an early age understand that a Maori sentence is different from an English sentence even if they couldn’t give you a definition of a sentence.

And here are some tips.

Grow the young person’s vocabulary – the number of words a learner can use with confidence will be the factor that identifies them as an advanced language learner or one that is catching up or lingering behind their peers. Words are the fuel of language. How many of us travel to foreign lands and get by with single words garbled because our ears aren’t up to it. Young people thrive in a situation where they are surrounded by real people who use lots of real words in real situations.

But this is not an invitation for parents to take over the talk. Janet Holmes tells the apocryphal story of the three year old who never uttered a word until one day at the dinner table she said “Would you please pass the salt?” An astonished parent sought an explanation as to why she had been silent until now to which she responded “Everything has been OK up till now!” Sit in a café and hear the parents taking over the responsibility for talking – usually in the third person. “Now, does Tommy want a muffin or a brioche? Mummy is going to have a brioche? I think Tommy would prefer a muffin? That’s what we will have today.” Child thinks: “Won’t be long and she will be back on to the iPhone!”

So children need to be surrounded by quality speakers of the language. Consider the impact on the development of young one’s when Celebrity A speaks on TV “Yeah, well, definitely – awesome, I mean to say – at the end of the day, well, brilliant!” Spot the sentence on that gob-full.

Finally, be relaxed about the young ones. The silent ones who don’t talk early will talk later (check for hearing issues though!) and they will use language at about the same level of sophistication as the early chatterers. And remember that talking is thinking. A silent brain is not an inactive brain. Children hear more than they appear to listen.

Vygotsky, the great Russian psycho-linguist, reminded us that “thoughts are not merely made up of words but come into being through them.” He uses the anecdote of the young boy who when challenged about something he had said replied “How do I know what I think till I see what I’ve said?”

It is very likely too early to predict that children are mutating into some kind of non-sentence-using little creatures. But do pay attention to the language environment in which they swim. It is probably the most important part of the child development eco-system.


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Bottling up the policy on Te Reo Maori

Hon Nanaia Mahuta thinks that the policy is compulsory Te Reo Maori in schools, Education Spokesperson Chris Hipkins thinks that well its important but….. While the rest of the MPs and most of the electorate have no idea what the Labour Party’s position is.

Never has the case been stronger for a policy of compulsory Te Reo Maori instruction and learning for all New Zealand school students but this is not the first time that the Labour leadership has lost its bottle on this one.

In the 1980s I was on a national curriculum group developing a syllabus for English in Form 6 – up to that point the sixth form had no syllabus and simply used examination prescriptions (who said the senior schools wasn’t all about going to university!).

A distinguished group of knowledgeable people (and me!) set about devising a strategy to teach about language at that level that was innovative and exciting. It was to be a study of English language based on a comparative linguistics approach. In other words, Sixth Form students were to learn about English language by comparing it to another language and that other language was to be Te Reo Maori.

There were compelling reasons for doing this.

Te Reo Maori was an official language of Aotearoa New Zealand therefore all citizens have some obligation to be acquainted with it.

More importantly, knowledge about language is more easily achieved when a student has a basis for comparison. In what ways is this language different from this other language that I already know? Most English speaking people who insist on and endorse the teaching of English grammar actually only learnt what they know about through an experience with another language. This was probably Latin or French, or German.

You do not need to know about English grammar in order to learn the language as a native speaker. But knowledge about how the English language works is essential if students aspire to be highly articulate and elegant in their expression and especially in their writing. So what better way to seek improvement of your first language (should that be English) than by studying a second language? And what better language to study than Te Reo Maori?

It is a language used around us – daily on television, radio and in many places and occasions in our daily lives – I hear much more Maori spoken than I do French or German.

Maori is also linguistically an excellent choice as it has a different vocabulary, an easy phonics system and a quite different structure. And it is an easy language to learn and pronounce. No!!! I hear some older people say but that is not the fault of Maori language, it is the consequqnece of not getting the opportunity to learn about it and to learn it at a time when we were young enough and our aural skills were acute enough to hear and retain the sounds which are different from English – another useful comparison.

So a policy of getting more Maori language instruction into schools is on very strong grounds and there is no danger of it not helping students to achieve higher levels of competence especially in English.

The dangers and risks are all political and that is where some courage is needed.

And who and when did a Labour leader lose his bottle? It was about 1985 or 1986 when the new Form 6 English Syllabus was circulated for comment and a certain lobby group within education got at David Lange and, goaded by allegations from the Opposition side of the House that NZ kids would all be gabbling Te Reo Maori but have no competence in English, and not for the last time he lost his bottle. It was enough for him to summarily dismiss the English Syllabus group which never met again.

New Zealand lost a chance to lead the way internationally to not only  bring an indigenous language into the mainstream curriculum but to also demonstrate the value of doing so to all the students who each require in order to achieve  and learn, knowledge about and skill in language at increasing levels throughout their educational journey.

So Chris Hipkins should stick his head up above the desktop and declare a strong policy of introducing Te Reo Maori into schools for all students. Not enough teachers, of course there is. They live in the street out the back of the school.

“Courage mon brave” and what a shame my own education sees me default to this exhortation rather than to “Kia kaha!”


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Talk-ED: With tongues hanging out


It never ceases to make me wonder whether or not we have become daft when I see constant references to this kind of “literacy” and that kind of “literacy”.

We see that “financial literacy” is needed to enable those who struggle with money – actually this seems largely to be a euphemism for “managing without much money”. To use computers well you must be “computer literate” by being steeped in “digital literacy”.

In fact the web tells me that there seems to be myriad varieties of literacy – scientific literacy, cultural literacy, mathematical literacy (this could be numeracy perhaps) global literacy, visual literacy, media literacy. And thus it all becomes clear.

“Literacy” no longer means being literate in the old sense of the word. A literate person was one who could read and write (long ago this meant a little bit of both) and these days the expectation is that this will be to a high level. It was the purpose of schooling to make people literate and that of tertiary education to make people elegantly literate.

Clearly “literate” and “literacy ” these days simply mean being able to do something, or know about it, or to have learned the appropriate behaviours.

It is a simple truth that literate people, genuinely literate, have the tools to be good at all those other things without too much initiation into the secret societies of managing money, working a computer, getting along with others and seeing through the media.  If our education system was turning out literate people across the board, because it clearly does this with many young people, it would not be necessary to add the complications of all those spin-off varieties.

Of course each new literacy that comes along creates another area of specialism that protects the turf – and this might be one of the very strong tendency to see each area of knowledge and activity as a “literacy”.

Those who can read, write and be articulate can tackle most things. For a period of my life I had a block of land that had sheep on it, bred ducks, had an orchard, grew flowers and vegetables and all the other trappings of “the good life”.  My neighbour would laugh at me saying “You are always reading a book to find out how to do something.”  He never understood the pleasure that this observation brought to me – of course I would do this, a literate person uses the tools of their literacy to acquire further knowledge.

And there’s the rub. As access to tertiary education expands for a variety of reasons there is  growing evidence that increasing numbers of students are arriving in the academy ill-prepared for the tasks that face them. This is not to say that they are illiterate (seemingly also a kind of literacy) but that they have not developed the skills of literacy to a point where they meet the demands of study at a university level.

So tertiary institutions have to accept the fact they they are increasingly in the business of literacy and get on with deciding how this is going to be tackled. Early responses saw the establishment of “Learning Centres” and “Academic Assistance” programmes but these carry with them the issue of relating what is being taught to what needs to be learnt. The best of such approaches are adequate but no substitute for delivering elements of literacy development right inside the programmes being taught in the various disciplines.  Embedded literacy is the current, favoured approach.

This is not a new idea – remember the language across the curriculum approaches developed in the 1960s?  That spawned a whole lot of English for Academic Uses and “English for …….” books and programmes.  Some of these may have worked but you can’t cope with issues that have become mainstream by clipping stuff on at the edges.

And to make this whole language thing even more of a challenge – the changing ethnicities of the demographics and the exponential increase in the presence of international students in classrooms meant that students introduced all the issues of English as an Additional Language into the mix.  And “bi-literacy” became yet another kind to consider – being literate in two languages.  This is actually a bit of nonsense – to a very large extent being literate in one language transfers to the skills of literacy in another, provided that the other language has a presence in the teaching setting.

Students seeking to understand a second language continually ask of themselves the question “In what ways is this new language the same as or different from the language I already know?”  Having teachers and tutors who have facility in the home languages students bring into the classroom helps with this.  You do not learn English as a Second Language by ignoring the first language!  We are very slow to recognise this and it is as much an issue for tertiary as it is for the schooling sector.

There has long been a saying among linguists – “If you speak many languages you are multilingual, if you speak two languages you are bilingual, if you speak one language you are English.”  Issues of multiple language do seem to trouble the Anglo-Saxon education systems rather more than they do to others.

Vygotsky put it nicely – “thought is not merely expressed in words but come into being through them.”  If our education institutions are in the business of increasing the capacity to think then they have to accept that they are in the business of language development – at all levels and across all disciplines.



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Talk-ED: An ode to semantics

Stuart Middleton
23 February 2012

One of my favourite cartoons is a Jules Feiffer (NY Times) in which an old man sits in his chair and reflects.

“I used to think to think I was poor.

Then they told me I wasn’t poor, I was needy.

Then they told me it was self-defeating to think of myself as needy, I was deprived.

Then they told me deprived was a bad image, I was underprivileged.

Then they told me underprivileged was over-used. I was disadvantaged.

I still don’t have a dime.

But I have a great vocabulary!”

I thought of this on several recent occasions when I have got involved in discussions about words to use when describing the groups of students who enjoy little success in education systems. It’s an international issue – what you refer to them as. So too is the fact that such groups exist!

We have a range of words at our disposal that includes underserved, underrepresented, disadvantaged, special needs, and so on. Each captures something of the essence of the groups we are talking about but each also carries with it, like all words, certain linguistic baggage.

Special Needs

Often this is used to refer to students who require different or enhanced approaches. In New Zealand it seems largely to have been applied to students with disabilities of some kind or another and there is a reluctance, appropriate I think, to apply it to students who are largely without disability but who are not making progress.

This has some difficulties. For instance, if a student enters a system with a language background that is different from the lingua franca of the system then clearly they have “a special need”. If a student is gifted in mathematics, they have “a special need.”  There might even be a case to be made that each and every student has a special need but…


This word usefully describes a phenomenon – disadvantage – and is less precise about its target. Disadvantage can be the result of a number of things which do not produce a positive outcome and leave an individual not able to enjoy benefits that others can. Being hard of hearing in a meeting in a noisy setting produces disadvantage. So disadvantage is a useful word but has limitations when applied to a student. The disadvantage is usually a set of factors that are outside the student or wrapped up in the inability of the education system to work effectively with students from a diverse range of backgrounds or social settings. It is not a useful description because it blurs the sources of disadvantage.


Now this is a factual description. In the US there is no doubt about who is being referred to when the term “traditionally underrepresented” is used. Take the winners in examinations – who is not there in the numbers they should be? Take the NCEA results – why is there discrepant figures for different groups? I like “underrepresented” as a word that draws attention to flaws in statements and results and analyses. Take the PISA results – yes we do brilliantly but which groups are underrepresented in sharing that brilliant performance. Conversely, take the NEETs group and which groups are “overrepresented”?


This is a trickier word. Does it imply blame? Does it picture the relationships between teachers and students, schools and communities, education systems and groups within the population as ones in which one party are responsible for “serving” the other? Well yes it does and so it should. But one can “serve” without any hint of “subservience”.

If in the queue for breakfast the kitchen runs out of food before everyone has their food, some will not be served. If this repeatedly happens to the same group, they are most certainly “underserved” by the kitchen and, frankly, only the kitchen can solve it.

So “underserved” means something different from the others, it is based on a pattern and in education systems that pattern is pretty clear for some groups. So too is it in health systems, housing provision, the employment stakes and so on. It is not peculiar to education. Where there are systems there are generally individuals and groups that are underserved.

All this is a difficult issue because people bring meaning to words that might differ from the intended meaning of those who write or speak them. Do we call those we teach “students” or “pupils” – they are not exactly synonymous but both are better than the ubiquitously used “kids”, this makes us seem like goats!

There are discussions often about teaching and learning – that’s an easy one.

Of course we could simply refer accurately to the groups who generally do not benefit from education systems to the same extent as other groups. These are clear across different countries – Maori and Pasifika in New Zealand, Aboriginal communities in Australia, First Nations groups in Canada, Hispanic and African American in the USA and in the UK, children from immigrant groups. Across all these countries those who bring English as an additional language to the system will have some uphill paths to tread, it doesn’t pay to be of low socio-economic status (i.e. poor) and students with special needs will require strong advocacy to get the help they need and are entitled to.

We know all this, we know that we are not getting the results we should and must. Doing something about it requires us not to talk about it but to act on it. It is the results students get not the way they are described that will make a difference. It is what we do not what we say that will lead to more equitable outcomes.

“Priority learners” is gaining ground in New Zealand lately. I worry about how that word attracts “high” and “low” so easily.


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Pathways-ED: Planting seeds in the garden of Babel

Stuart Middleton
4 August 2011

One of the exciting and challenging ways in which New Zealand has changed over the past forty years has been the explosive flowering of linguistic diversity in our communities. Where once English was heard pretty well everywhere, at least in public, and those other languages were confined to the homes, the churches and the places in which those who shared languages other then English got together, now on the streets and in our daily lives we hear a rich symphony of many languages.

This change has been an uneasy one for New Zealand and from time to time various people have put forward the view that if only everyone spoke English we would all become a happy band of homogenous New Zealanders. Such a view is both delightfully innocent and dangerously ignorant.

When a native speaker of a language other than English learns English they do not become an Englishman or woman – they remain a Samoan, a Sikh, a Somali and so on. But they now have two languages in which they can be Samoan, Sikh and Somali citizen. It could be that in fact that these new skills allow for a confidence that intensifies the feeling of identity.

Where these languages are new to the English-speaking community, they add richness and it is the community that now has  new skills and capabilities. But do we respond positively to this? 

Not always. It is a tired old joke that has more than a grain of truth in it that if you speak two languages you are bilingual, if you speak many languages you are multilingual and if you speak one language you are English. Language learning has never been a strength of English communities so we struggle with linguistic diversity. We struggle to find comfort with indigenous languages in English speaking countries and we continue to believe that if you are going to be a valuable citizen you had better measure up in gems of English language.

Take for instance those professions that stamp arbitrary English language requirements on students and new citizens from language communities other than English. Nursing is one such example. If you arrive in New Zealand as a trained and experienced nurse you cannot offer your skills in nursing for the service of your new community until you have demonstrated a level of skill in English. Well is it more a case that you have to demonstrate the skill of passing an examination in English rather than actual communication. And you have to do this in an examination that a sizeable number of New Zealand English-speaking people would fail – not that they will be stopped from practicing. We simply assume that if by accident of birth you are English-speaking you will be OK. Of course the programs and tests and examinations that you have to pass are evidence of a certain level but it cannot be assumed that it is the level that we require of people from other language communities.

Why are we able to communicate with babies and toddlers easily and yet assume that adults require degree level English in order to communicate with us?

One of the explanations of levels of educational success (or more accurately, failure) for indigenous communities is the extent to which we have removed the first language and expected them to proceed on the basis of a second language. I suspect that this helps explain Maori student educational patterns over a hundred years and that of Pasifika students more recently.

Where students retain a robust first language that they to continue to develop and grow, they are able to learn a new language easily. Metalinguistic processes enable them to learn that new language by reference to their first language -in what ways is this new language the same as or different from the language I already know?

In Sweden, when a student from a particular language community enrols in an institution, that institution is required to find and employ a native speaker from that language community to support the student. This is very enlightened. We could do this easily as we have a rich vein of community members available who would be pleased to be employed in this way. Yes there is a cost but the cost of making education difficult for those who do not bring the correct language into the classroom is much greater.

I strolled down Queen Street in Auckland recently and noticed the rich range of languages I was hearing around me. Perhaps they were all tourists or students from English language schools. But I do hope that they were not. We are the all the richer for having a community characterised by linguistic diversity.

It is one of the great ironies of the modern world that in California, part of the country of E pluribus unum, half of the population cannot speak to the other half. The rift of monocultural obsessions is now complete.

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Pathway-ED: Spotting trees through the woods

Stuart Middleton
31 March 2011

Increasingly there is a realisation that the profile of the teaching force at whatever level best meets the needs of students if it can to a degree reflect the profile of the student population. Consequently there is an increasing interest in appointing a diverse range of people to teaching positions in education institutions.

This includes increasing the numbers of Maori and Pacific Islands teachers especially in post-secondary institutions.

At one level the solution to this dilemma is simple:  “If you want them appoint them!”

But at a range of other levels the issue is quite complex and involves a very vicious circle. The progress of Maori and Pacific Islands students through the school system, through the entry requirements of tertiary education and through a first degree programme to graduation is still constrained by a whole range of issues that are well-known and need not be detailed right now and just here. The number who can then proceed to higher degrees is even more restricted by the processes that make attainment of qualifications at those higher levels a tough call for all students.

Competition is keen among those groups wanting to recruit graduates with degree and postgraduate qualifications. Teaching simply has to line up with everyone else to get these students into the profession.

So the pool of people potentially able to be teachers and who reflect the demographics, especially the groups of the under-represented and the under-served is neither wide nor deep. We could once use the word term “minority groups” to describe the groups from which we wanted to see increased representation in the teaching force but this makes little sense as the birth cohort in Auckland now has a majority of babies born into the Maori and Pacific Islands communities, a trend which will eventually be a national one.

As long as the population trends grow more steeply and more quickly that the increase in educational attainments we shall fail to achieve the teaching forces in schools and tertiary institutions that truly reflect the people of this nation.

These are international trends and no country has yet provided an effective response to the challenge.

But I also think that there needs to be a re-assessment of ethnicity as a quality that should be taken note of in the recruitment of teachers. If we were to see experience as a really important factor in the basket of skills, knowledge, aspirations and dispositions that people bring with them into a teaching position (and we would claim that we do) then the experience of being from this or that ethnic group is surely an important element in the things that qualify people for a position, or make them the strongest applicant, or adds that extra something that interview and appointment panels seek.

Similarly in a linguistically diverse community surely additional notice should be taken of the ability to bring more than one language into a position. The experience of being bilingual is not simulated through simply learning a foreign language for a few years and the authentic experience of the bilingual person must give them an edge in working with bilingual students.

And this is what all this is about – an edge. Many people will have the basic qualifications and qualities to be a teacher, but educational institutions seek to put before their students, people who have this and an edge. It could be a special empathy with students or an outstanding ability to pass on the excitement of a discipline. But it could also be an affinity with particular ethnic groups, a skill in the language of another group, a life experience that makes understanding the experience of others more acute.

This edge in fact becomes in itself something of a qualification to teach. Perhaps the teachers we need are out there but our search capability is using too narrow a telescope.


Whanganui’s h-bomb

Stuart Middleton
New Zealand Education Review
Vol 14 No.37, September 25, 2009, p16
APN Educational Media (NZ) Ltd

Thank goodness for schools. Due in large measure to schools and the efforts of teachers, children grow up learning from critical appreciation of the attitudes and prejudices of generations that have come before. Schools and teachers help give successive generations the freedom to go beyond the limits of those prejudices and practices.

Attitudes to wars, gender equity, relationships with the environment, growing appreciation of the dangers of smoking and of drinking are simple examples of areas in which schools and teachers have played a part (only a part) in shaping changed attitudes and behaviours.

But perhaps the most important change is that related to an understanding of and tolerance for those practices and attitudes related to respecting the language of the first people of our nation, the people of this land, the tangata whenua, Maori.

Not that long ago it was possible for a woman to be sacked in New Zealand for answering a business telephone with the greeting “Kia ora”. Not that long ago it was possible for sports talkback hosts to question why we must have “two national anthems” sung at the start of sporting events. Not that long ago physical battles (such as Bastion Point and the Raglan Golf course) were still being fought for land.

Oh yes, there has been progress but its fragility with regard to language has been well exposed by the events of the past week in Wanganui. The recommendation of the National Geographic Board was that the town called Wanganui to this point, have its spelling brought into line with what the Board accepted as the correct spelling – Whanganui. This is a learned, qualified and experienced group of people who if they were making recommendations in any field other than the emotionally charged area of language, and about anything other than the name of the town of Whanganui, would be taken seriously and with respect.

But not so the National Geographic Board so far as the Mayor of Wanganui, Michael Laws, is concerned. He characterised the group as undemocratic, self-appointed and unrepresentative and so on and claimed that they had in “one foul swoop” committed this grave injustice. I would like to think that he actually and correctly said “one fell swoop” and then cleverly turned it into a pun “for that is what it is – foul!” But I suspect he said “foul” and meant “fell” – pity, it was a good pun! When such issues arises, everyone seems to be an authority and expertise on matters linguistic comes from most unlikely sources.

Language is never fixed, it changes and is dynamic. English is perhaps the most changing and dynamic language of them all and has been so for hundreds of years. So it is little surprise when a language steeped in oral tradition, but much more recently captured in writing, is settling down. Early missionaries approximated what they heard, using English letters to represent the sounds they heard even when those sounds might not have been the same. They didn’t always get it right. The aligning of the name of the city with the name of the river with what is standard and acceptable usage to mana whenua is part of this natural process.

Issues such as whether the beginning of some words in Maori is closer to an “f” in some areas and not in others and to a “wh” as in “where” in some areas and not in others are just that, issues that require the considered views from those who know. Answers to why the “-ere” combination of letters in Maori presents a challenge to English-speakers are to be provided by phonologists and linguists.

What is most helpful to the processes of arbitration in linguistic matters relating to Te Reo Maori is the Maori Language Commission Te Taurawhiri I Te Reo Māori. Rather than criticise it for acting as some kind of language police we should welcome its ability to guide us and to right errors that have crept into usage. It also charts pathways forward as it guides one of our three official languages into pathways for the future.

And changing the name of a city is really such a small issue (let’s not even consider the correction of spelling mistakes!). Bombay becomes Mumbai and the world does not tilt on its axis. Six cities in the north of New Zealand will change their names completely when the super city/state is in place.

Countries even change their names with ease – the Gilbert Islands changed to Kiribati, Ellice Islands favoured Tuvalu, Western Samoa became Samoa – just a few close to home. New national anthems appear and are sung with gusto (e.g. South Afrika) and new flags are flown just as quickly as they can be designed.

Changing a letter in a city name really is about the most insignificant issue in this whole area of identity. Thankfully the next generation will see the fuss for what it is and will be keen to join the big wide world where blilingualism is the norm. Ireland, Canada and Wales are all countries with which New Zealanders feel comfortable and are all diligent in respecting their dual language responsibilities.

Let’s get on with sorting out the wider issues and ask the National Geographic Board to provide guidance on the Maori names of all towns and cities in New Zealand. This would be a process that would correct historical mistakes (perhaps the name of Kaikohe should be Kaikohekohe) where they occur and provide a bilingual option where English names are used. Young people in our schools would love to be involved in such a process and would embrace it.

Not for them the narrow minded linguistic mores of the past. There used to be a joke that if you spoke many languages you were multilingual, if you spoke two languages you were bilingual and if you spoke one language you were English.

And if you drop your aitches?

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