Cooking competition an engaging way to practise and assess language

A multilingual food competition was held on the Wellington waterfront by Victoria University’s School of Languages and Cultures recently.

About 70 students worked in teams to prepare either a dumplings or ravioli meal communicating only in the language they are learning—either Chinese, Japanese, German or Italian.

The meals were then judged by a panel that included Wellington chefs Roberto Giorgioni of Bongusto and Vicky Ha of House of Dumplings. 

Representatives of the four embassies in Wellington attended, including Italian Ambassador Mr Carmelo Barbarello. 

The students’ fluency in language was also assessed, says Dr Marco Sonzogni, a senior lecturer in the School of Languages and Cultures. 

“One of the things our students would like to do more of is to have opportunities outside the classroom to practise their language. This event is ideal because they’re cooking, and their minds are on the cooking, but at the same time they’re using the language.

“You think of the traditional oral exam—people coming up with a five to 10-minute presentation, and the anxiety, then the questions, then the marking. The students are doing the same thing here but their minds are on something else.”

Multilingual Masterchef is an annual event. There are plans to include students of additional languages next year, Dr Sonzogni says.

The event was held at Social Cooking, Chaffers Dock, and supported by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The food prepared by the Japanese-speaking team Aomori was judged the winning entry on the night.