The North Asia CAPE held the inaugural Schools Language Conference on Saturday 17 November. The purpose of the conference was to kindle enthusiasm for learning Japanese and Korean amongst Year 9 and 10 language students from greater Auckland and the Waikato. The programme offered activities to support kids’ speaking and writing (with games and other fun activities thrown in). In addition, there was a K-Pop dance class in the morning and a Taekwando session in the afternoon.

For the dance session, the conference took over the Rec Centre at the University of Auckland. Choreographer Rina Chae wowed the students when she listed the names of the K-Pop groups she has worked with – cheers and applause at each announcement. It was exciting to see the whole conference moving as one, as Rina called out the moves of the song.

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A day of learning, sharing and fun - for everyone

The conference was free for students and teachers, and the North Asia CAPE provided morning tea and lunch for everyone. We also arranged and paid for transport for Decile 1-5 schools, to make sure they were able to take part. An enthusiastic bunch of kids attended from Waihi. We were delighted they could take part. The northernmost group hailed from Orewa. Many of the students were accompanied by their teachers, for whom we arranged a separate programme. We also gave them a networking space for them to share ideas over coffee. Some parents also attended, which was great to see.

The conference was held in the Owen G. Glenn Building on the University of Auckland city campus. It’s a big building, so we had 10 University student helpers (many of them language students) to help with wayfinding.

The day opened with a plenary session in the Fisher and Paykel Auditorium, when the students were given their ‘Match my Future’ exercise to take home. The aim is to help students consider the opportunities that learning a language can open up for them – and discuss the options with their parents. We know that language study can enhance careers in a range of fields, from business to engineering and diplomacy to medicine, opening the door to study overseas or living in another country. There are lots of reasons to keep learning.

Building and celebrating language capacity

Some of the children who attended the Schools Conference are already bilingual, speaking Samoan or Tongan at home and English at school. Their commitment to their home language as well as to studying an Asian language is impressive - something for us all to celebrate.

In the final plenary session we checked to see whether the attendees had found the conference useful. ‘Did you have fun?’ ‘Yes!’ Did you learn heaps?’ ‘Yes!!’ ‘Do you want to come back next year?’ ‘YES!’, they roared.

The students’ sentiments were echoed by the teachers in a tweet by Claire Guy, ESOL/Japanese teacher and eLearning facilitator at Westlake Girls' High School: “Such a valuable day for Year 9 Japanese students and Japanese teachers like me. Thoroughly enjoyed by all.”

Thanks to our supporters and organisers!

The 2018 conference was masterminded by Dallas Nesbitt, Senior Lecturer in Japanese at AUT. Dallas designed the Japanese teaching sessions and also delivered the professional development programme. The Korean programme was designed by Mi-Young Kim, Principal of the NZ Korean School of Wellington, who prepared graded Korean reading materials. Advice on the cultural components came from Ms Arum Jung Cultural and Public Affairs Officer at the Korean Consulate Office. The Korean Education Centre in Auckland also provided help and advice.

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