Multilingual Masterchef

Students get cooking and talking in an annual multilingual food competition organised by Victoria’s School of Languages and Cultures.

Students at the annual multilingual food competition organised by Victoria's School of Languages and Cultures

Last year’s Multilingual Masterchef involved about 70 language students working in teams to prepare a meal of either dumplings or ravioli. The rule—to communicate only in the language they were learning.

Students of Chinese, Japanese, German and Italian participated, with their cooking judged by a panel that included Wellington chefs Roberto Giorgioni of Bongusto and Vicky Ha of House of Dumplings.

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,” he says. “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.”

Representatives of the Chinese, Japanese, German and Italian embassies in Wellington attended the event. There are plans to include students of additional languages in the competition next year.

The Victoria initiative has gone international in other ways, with Dr Francesca Calamita, who earned her PhD in Italian at Victoria, successfully introducing the concept to her students of Italian at the University of Virginia in the United States.