What I'm working on over summer: Rosemary Erlam

16 January 2017
Rosemary Erlam and Hanling Yan

We’re catching up with our researchers to find out what they will be working on over the summer.

Dr Rosemary Erlam will be spending the summer working with a summer scholar to investigate how knowledge of a language other than English affects employability in Auckland.

Her summer scholar, Hanling Yan, has just completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Linguistics. The pair will be trawling through job advertisements on key websites to see which ones require language skills.

Rosemary explains that “employers only tend to mention the most important skills,” so it will be telling if knowledge of a language other than English features on these advertisements.

They will also be inviting employers to take part in an interview, where they will be asked the question: “would a candidate have an advantage over a comparable candidate if they had knowledge of another language?”

Rosemary is quick to acknowledge that Hanling will be doing the “hard work” over the summer, which Rosemary will supervise and then write up and co-publish with Hanling.

Rosemary worked with another summer scholar on a pilot project last year, and the data from this initial foray indicated that knowledge of Mandarin was most in demand, followed by te reo Māori.

Their initial work also indicated that knowledge of other languages was most important for careers in business, closely followed by retail and hospitality, and tourism.

Rosemary is looking forward to continuing her research into this area, with the aim of creating useable data in the New Zealand context. She explains that information like this is important for people like careers advisers in secondary schools.

She is excited about how New Zealand is becoming more multilingual — especially in Auckland — and that more value is being placed on languages. She hopes that through work such as hers, learning languages can be a positive experience for students.

“I am passionate about teaching languages in schools in New Zealand, and I want New Zealanders to see themselves as speakers of many languages.”

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