About us

The information on these pages has been predominantly collected from the ‘bilingual teens’ arm of the Intergenerational Transmission of Minority Languages (ITML) Project, which is studying the extent to which speakers of minority languages in New Zealand are passing their language on to their children. The phrase ‘minority language’ is used here to mean languages other than the three official languages of New Zealand: English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language.

The ‘bilingual teens’ section of the project, with funding from NZILBB, focuses on the experiences of parents and their teenage children in situations where intergenerational transmission has been successful. The data sources for the ‘bilingual teens’ ITML project are twofold: recent census data on the number of child speakers and interviews with parents and their minority language speaking teenagers. Information from both sources will allow the ITML project to address the deficits in current knowledge about bilingualism in New Zealand, by creating pamphlets and presentations for parents and relevant professional bodies.

One of the initial motivations for the ITML project was a report from the Office of Ethnic Affairs where it was suggested that migrant families should consider speaking English to their children to improve their level of English. Our concern is that advice such as this may encourage migrant families to abandon intergenerational language transmission without considering the long-term personal and societal benefits of competence in the heritage language. It is also worth noting that in comparison with other jurisdictions there is a dearth of public understanding and knowledge about multilingualism in New Zealand and a lack of information for professionals working with parents and children.

Project Leaders

UnaProfessor Una Cunningham
Department of Education
Uppsala University
Author of the book: Growing up with two languages

JeanetteProfessor Jeanette King
School of Māori and Indigenous Studies
University of Canterbury


Research Assistants

Anneke a Campo (Dutch)
Lia de Vocht (Dutch)
Diane Fletcher (French)
Julia Hinrichs (German)
Jin Kim (Korean)
Novia Bin (Chinese)
Aline Taylor (French)
Marie-Ève Therrien (French)
Carolina Tornero Martos (Spanish)

For more information about Learning and Teaching Languages research at the University of Canterbury, please visit the University website by clicking here.