Thursday, August 18, 2011

International Languages Week

People in Huia 1 who speak or understand languages other than English (and a bit of Spanish) try to locate the countries of their languages' origins. This wonderful floor-to-ceiling world map is in our school .

In New Zealand, this week is International Languages Week.

Within our class we have speakers of several languages as well as English and, of course, we are all learning Spanish:

Terence has learned a bit of Maori, Japanese and Mandarin and understands some Cook Island Maori.

Ben understands some Maori

Fili speaks some Samoan

Jackie speaks Vietnamese, Mandarin and Cambodian

Donny speaks Cantonese

Nikhil speaks Hindi

Krizelle speaks Filipino

Sarah I speaks Urdu and a bit of Punjabi

Danny speaks Hebrew, a bit of Russian (and understands more) and used to be able to speak a bit of Romanian but doesn't remember it any more.

Karnjeet speaks Punjabi and Hindi

Bhaban speaks Punjabi and Hindi

Callum understands some Nuiean

Matthew has learned some French

and we all speak English and some Spanish.

We love this comedy video clip called The Offensive Translator which shows how we perceive the sounds, and stereotype the speakers, of different languages. It was interesting to share this with our class because we have some native speakers of those languages in Huia 1 and we wanted to know if we shared the same understanding of what is funny.

Bhaban said,"The Indian guy looks like my Dad." He said, "She sounded nothing like Indian language. I thought it was funny- but in real life, I think if an Indian did get offended, he would get all 'hyper' and start swearing bad language. But first he would be polite and would say, 'Please don't do that.' " Bharban said that he would have recognised that she was trying to speak Indian if he hadn't seen the man or his flag.

Jackie said,"She sounded like she was drunk - and she sounded nothing like Chinese. I thought it was funny because she looked and sounded as if she was confused. She was trying to make the noise of the Chinese language. If someone really spoke like that, a person might be offended but I understand the joke in the video clip." Jackie said he wouldn't have known she was trying to speak Chinese if he hadn't seen the Chinese woman in the video.

Karnjeet said, "I actually found it pretty funny because she didn't know what she was speaking and was using random words because she doesn't know how to speak Indian. I didn't recognise even a bit of what she was saying. I probably would have picked that she was trying to speak Indian."

Donny said, " I thought it was funny. She tried to speak like a Chinese person although she is just saying random crazy stuff. I wouldn't have recognised that she was trying to speak Chinese if I hadn't seen the Chinese lady."

Nikhil thought it was really entertaining. "She kind of got the accent right but not the words. They were way off. I would have known that she was trying to speak Indian if I hadn't seen the Indian man."

But there can also be many different ways of speaking the same language. Check out the 21 accents used by this speaker. The class recognised the New Zealand accent easily - especially after the speaker said she came from Wellington. We loved the way she changed her age from twenty-five to twenty-six so she could emphasis the way we pronounce the sound 'i'.

And then, we learned different ways to say (and write) 'Hello' in different languages. It was interesting that there are formal and informal ways to say hello in many cultures. Here's another person who has learned to say 'Hello' in 25 different ways. (Please note: these are not all spoken by native speakers but they would be understood - which is the most important thing!)

But, there can be times when misunderstandings DO occur...

There are many good reasons why it is good to speak another language. Here's one you may not have thought about...


  1. I didn't know all those languages where alive and well in your classroom.

    Mrs F

  2. Gracias Huia 1, I have enjoyed reading about your learning during International Languages Week. It must be great to have so many different language speakers in your class.

    The Offensive Translator clip did make me smile =)

    Nga mihi nui