7 Sep 2015

ECE children speak many languages

9:54 am on 7 September 2015

Samoan, Sign Language and Chinese are the most widely-spoken languages in early childhood centres after English and Maori, official figures show.

language dictionaries

Children are speaking a diverse range of languages in New Zealand early childhood centres. Photo: 123RF

Education Ministry statistics showed there were 4299 licensed early childhood education (ECE) services last year, and 4101 of them used English to some extent.

Maori was spoken in 3666 centres, although most said they did so only between one percent and 11 of the time. In only 468 centres was Maori spoken more than 81 percent of the time.

Samoan was spoken in 389 services last year, followed by Sign Language in 322 and Northern Chinese in 280.

Other languages in use in the sector included Hindi, which was spoken in 182 early childhood services, and Tongan, which was spoken in 121 services.

A very small number of centres reported using other languages, including Hungarian, Hebrew, Gaelic and Bulgarian.