Sunday, April 23, 2017
Mike Butler: Tribute to language petitionerLabels: English language, Robin Bishop, Simon Bridges
She found that its status is based on the fact that most people customarily speak it. The Maori language was declared official in 1987, and sign language in 2006.
The only official requirement for the use of English is in the Tax Administration Act, which says financial records must be kept in English.
English is not under threat, nor undervalued. Shouldn't we leave well alone? “No,” Robin said. “English should rightfully be given the same status as Maori and sign language.
So, Robin set about collecting signatures. She did not say she was battling cancer.
The last email I received from Robin about the petition was a little under two weeks ago, when she announced that she had collected 6258 signatures, mostly by herself.
Four days ago, I was told Robin had passed away. She had literally died trying to gain official status for the English language in New Zealand.
Robin started her campaign with the signatures of four workmates. Mr Bridges as a political heavyweight agreed to present the petition to Parliament.
In the course of promoting the petition, Robin found that of the 189 languages spoken in New Zealand, English is the biggie, with 3.8-million speakers, according to the 2013 census.
A total 148,000 say they speak Maori, although only 125,352 of those could hold a conversation about everyday things. There is a decline in the numbers speaking Maori, with 4.8 percent fewer Te Reo speakers in 2013 compared with the 2006 census.
More speak Chinese – a combined total of 148,000. There were 86,000 speaking Samoan, 66,000 Hindi, 31,000 Tongan, 29,000 Tagalog (Philippines), 27,000 Spanish, 26,000 Korean, 24,000 Dutch, 20,000 Japanese, 19,000 Punjabi, 10,000 Arabic, 9000 Russian, and 7000 Thai.
New Zealand is not alone in having a somewhat casual regard for the main language.
In the United Kingdom, where English is spoken by 98 percent of its 64.5 million inhabitants, Welsh is the only official language there. Its official status is limited to Wales where 580,000 speak Welsh.
Similarly, English serves as the main language of the United States without being the official language. It is spoken well by all but 57 million of the nation’s 318 million residents. Forty million speak Spanish.
English is an official language of almost 60 sovereign states. It is the most commonly spoken language in Canada, Australia, Ireland, and is widely spoken language in countries in the Caribbean, Africa, and South Asia. It is the third most common native language in the world, after Mandarin and Spanish.
Robin’s petition has been passed to Mr Bridges to present to Parliament.
at 2:11 PM