Planting the seeds of language

Issue: Volume 96, Number 14

Posted: 14 August 2017
Reference #: 1H9dwC

Culture plays an essential role at West Auckland’s Hobsonville Point schools – and in language learning too. Education Gazette meets Korean teacher Regina Kim.

While Korean language classes for non-native speakers at Hobsonville Point started with just one keen student and one dedicated teacher, the numbers of students enrolled in Korean have increased significantly this year.

“They think that K-Pop and K-Drama are cool but I also heard them say that Hangeul [the Korean alphabet] looks so cool as well,” explains Regina Kim, Korean teacher at Hobsonville Point schools.

Hobsonville Point Primary School and Hobsonville Point Secondary School, which opened in 2013 and 2014 respectively, are located in a busy, thriving new development in West Auckland. Culture is valued highly at the schools. It is a central focus of school life to look after each other and respect each other’s cultures. Culture also plays an important role in language learning, as the influence that current pop culture has on the students’ motivation is immense.

Although Regina previously taught Korean in Korea for 10 years, she had not taught non-native Korean speakers before.

She soon gained confidence and was able to grow that further by attending the ILEP consolidation programme in 2016.

“The consolidation programme helped me a lot,” Regina says.

“I learnt so much about teaching methods in language teaching and using target language in class, which is greatly successful. My students’ understanding of Korean has improved considerably and they really cherish the authentic input.”

She describes her role as a facilitator and “learner-centred entertainer”.

“We as teachers are just planting the seeds. The kids take them, grow them and cultivate them further. We see ourselves more as facilitators than as teachers. We are guiding the students, and they take off,” says Heidi Burris, Japanese teacher and head of languages at Hobsonville Point Secondary School.

Regina also highlights the strong support within the team.

“Cooperation is a beautiful thing and language learning at our school is successful because of teamwork,” she says.

Bringing fun to the class

“Young students are like sponges,” says Regina Kim.

“Starting at an early age is a huge benefit for them. Their first encounter with second language learning is mainly fun, which makes it easier to continue the journey. For us as language teachers it is lovely to experience the sheer enthusiasm that the young ones muster. At an older age, teenagers tend to approach language classes with the conception of ‘learning a language is hard’.”

Regina feels that young students bring a fun attitude to the language learning classroom, which contributes to a lively atmosphere. Often it does not stop there and they happily communicate with the language knowledge they have outside the classroom as well.

Putting Korean into practice

Further disputing the idea of studying an Asian language as ‘difficult’ the senior students at Hobsonville Point Secondary School have made amazing progress in a little more than one year.

They have become confident in reading and writing and also in having conversations in Korean. Some students report that there were several occasions where they had the opportunity to put their Korean into practice.

In such situations, they would readily approach people in Korean when they overhear them speaking the language, for example in shops. This not only reflects on the high level of language capability achieved but also exemplifies the growth of social skills that goes hand in hand with language acquisition. 

A wealth of opportunities and benefits

The Ministry of Education set up the ALLiS programme as “New Zealand needs to increase the number of students learning Asian languages to support our growing trade and international relationships. International evidence shows learning a second language can also contribute to the development of a student’s literacy skills in their first language”.

A total of 201 schools across the country will have benefited from the funding which comes to an end once the schools that were selected for Round 2 funding in 2017 have received two years of funding.

The Director of the Korean Education Centre Yoomi Won stresses the career opportunities that arise for someone who speaks Korean in New Zealand where Korea is the fifth important trade partner in the country.

“Being able to speak Korean broadens your opportunities on a very practical level, in the job and trade market, which can also have considerable economic benefits,” she says.

Besides the economic benefits language skills also sharpen communicative skills in general and broaden horizons on a social and emotional level. “A vital trait, especially for the ‘nomad generation’ that we expect our children to be part of,” says Yoomi.

When asked about the benefits of language learning, Heidi and Regina agree that while language learning improves personal growth on numerous levels, the benefit that is most convincing to students and parents is the positive effect on job opportunities in our increasingly globalised world. 

The Government committed a total of $10 million over five years to introduce the Asian Language Learning in Schools (ALLiS) programme in August 2014.

The aim of this programme was to increase second language learning for all students by supporting the teaching of Asian languages, assisting schools in building or strengthening existing Asian language learning programmes in schools. In two rounds starting in 2016 and 2017, schools applied for the contestable funds. All funding has now been allocated and schools are seeing huge benefits from the programme.

Hobsonville Point Primary School and Hobsonville Point Secondary School were amongst those schools selected in Round 1, receiving two years of funding from 2016.

It is one of the priorities of ALLiS is to establish language learning pathways from primary through to secondary level.

Hobsonville Point Primary School and Hobsonville Point Secondary School are an ALLiS cluster that thanks to the funding can now offer a continuous pathway in Asian languages, including Korean, throughout all school years beginning in year 1.

ALLiS also encourages greater collaboration amongst schools in partnership with external Asian language and cultural organisations and a Memorandum of Understanding between the Hobsonville Point Cluster and the Korean Education Centre further facilitates the provision of Korean lessons at all year levels.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 14 August 2017

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