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  • I know what you're thinking.

  • You think I've lost my way,

  • and somebody's going to come on the stage in a minute

  • and guide me gently back to my seat.

  • (Applause)

  • I get that all the time in Dubai.

  • "Here on holiday are you, dear?"

  • (Laughter)

  • "Come to visit the children?

  • How long are you staying?"

  • Well actually, I hope for a while longer yet.

  • I have been living and teaching in the Gulf

  • for over 30 years.

  • (Applause)

  • And in that time, I have seen a lot of changes.

  • Now that statistic

  • is quite shocking.

  • And I want to talk to you today

  • about language loss

  • and the globalization of English.

  • I want to tell you about my friend

  • who was teaching English to adults in Abu Dhabi.

  • And one fine day,

  • she decided to take them into the garden

  • to teach them some nature vocabulary.

  • But it was she who ended up learning

  • all the Arabic words for the local plants,

  • as well as their uses --

  • medicinal uses, cosmetics,

  • cooking, herbal.

  • How did those students get all that knowledge?

  • Of course, from their grandparents

  • and even their great-grandparents.

  • It's not necessary to tell you how important it is

  • to be able to communicate

  • across generations.

  • But sadly, today,

  • languages are dying

  • at an unprecedented rate.

  • A language dies every 14 days.

  • Now, at the same time,

  • English is the undisputed global language.

  • Could there be a connection?

  • Well I don't know.

  • But I do know that I've seen a lot of changes.

  • When I first came out to the Gulf, I came to Kuwait

  • in the days when it was still a hardship post.

  • Actually, not that long ago.

  • That is a little bit too early.

  • But nevertheless,

  • I was recruited by the British Council,

  • along with about 25 other teachers.

  • And we were the first non-Muslims

  • to teach in the state schools there in Kuwait.

  • We were brought to teach English

  • because the government wanted to modernize the country

  • and to empower the citizens through education.

  • And of course, the U.K. benefited

  • from some of that lovely oil wealth.

  • Okay.

  • Now this is the major change that I've seen --

  • how teaching English

  • has morphed

  • from being a mutually beneficial practice

  • to becoming a massive international business that it is today.

  • No longer just a foreign language on the school curriculum,

  • and no longer the sole domain

  • of mother England,

  • it has become a bandwagon

  • for every English-speaking nation on earth.

  • And why not?

  • After all, the best education --

  • according to the latest World University Rankings --

  • is to be found in the universities

  • of the U.K. and the U.S.

  • So everybody wants to have an English education, naturally.

  • But if you're not a native speaker,

  • you have to pass a test.

  • Now can it be right

  • to reject a student

  • on linguistic ability alone?

  • Perhaps you have a computer scientist

  • who's a genius.

  • Would he need the same language as a lawyer, for example?

  • Well, I don't think so.

  • We English teachers reject them all the time.

  • We put a stop sign,

  • and we stop them in their tracks.

  • They can't pursue their dream any longer,

  • 'til they get English.

  • Now let me put it this way:

  • if I met a monolingual Dutch speaker

  • who had the cure for cancer,

  • would I stop him from entering my British University?

  • I don't think so.

  • But indeed, that is exactly what we do.

  • We English teachers are the gatekeepers.

  • And you have to satisfy us first

  • that your English is good enough.

  • Now it can be dangerous

  • to give too much power

  • to a narrow segment of society.

  • Maybe the barrier would be too universal.

  • Okay.

  • "But," I hear you say,

  • "what about the research?

  • It's all in English."

  • So the books are in English,

  • the journals are done in English,

  • but that is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • It feeds the English requirement.

  • And so it goes on.

  • I ask you, what happened to translation?

  • If you think about the Islamic Golden Age,

  • there was lots of translation then.

  • They translated from Latin and Greek

  • into Arabic, into Persian,

  • and then it was translated on

  • into the Germanic languages of Europe

  • and the Romance languages.

  • And so light shone upon the Dark Ages of Europe.

  • Now don't get me wrong;

  • I am not against teaching English,

  • all you English teachers out there.

  • I love it that we have a global language.

  • We need one today more than ever.

  • But I am against using it

  • as a barrier.

  • Do we really want to end up with 600 languages

  • and the main one being English, or Chinese?

  • We need more than that. Where do we draw the line?

  • This system

  • equates intelligence

  • with a knowledge of English,

  • which is quite arbitrary.

  • (Applause)

  • And I want to remind you

  • that the giants upon whose shoulders

  • today's intelligentsia stand

  • did not have to have English,

  • they didn't have to pass an English test.

  • Case in point, Einstein.

  • He, by the way, was considered remedial at school

  • because he was, in fact, dyslexic.

  • But fortunately for the world,

  • he did not have to pass an English test.

  • Because they didn't start until 1964

  • with TOEFL,

  • the American test of English.

  • Now it's exploded.

  • There are lots and lots of tests of English.

  • And millions and millions of students

  • take these tests every year.

  • Now you might think, you and me,

  • "Those fees aren't bad, they're okay,"

  • but they are prohibitive

  • to so many millions of poor people.

  • So immediately, we're rejecting them.

  • (Applause)

  • It brings to mind a headline I saw recently:

  • "Education: The Great Divide."

  • Now I get it,

  • I understand why people would want to focus on English.

  • They want to give their children the best chance in life.

  • And to do that, they need a Western education.

  • Because, of course, the best jobs

  • go to people out of the Western Universities,

  • that I put on earlier.

  • It's a circular thing.

  • Okay.

  • Let me tell you a story about two scientists,

  • two English scientists.

  • They were doing an experiment

  • to do with genetics

  • and the forelimbs and the hind limbs of animals.

  • But they couldn't get the results they wanted.

  • They really didn't know what to do,

  • until along came a German scientist

  • who realized that they were using two words

  • for forelimb and hind limb,

  • whereas genetics does not differentiate

  • and neither does German.

  • So bingo,

  • problem solved.

  • If you can't think a thought,

  • you are stuck.

  • But if another language can think that thought,

  • then, by cooperating,

  • we can achieve and learn so much more.

  • My daughter

  • came to England from Kuwait.

  • She had studied science and mathematics in Arabic.

  • It's an Arabic medium school.

  • She had to translate it into English at her grammar school.

  • And she was the best in the class

  • at those subjects.

  • Which tells us

  • that when students come to us from abroad,

  • we may not be giving them enough credit

  • for what they know,

  • and they know it in their own language.

  • When a language dies,

  • we don't know what we lose with that language.

  • This is -- I don't know if you saw it on CNN recently --

  • they gave the Heroes Award

  • to a young Kenyan shepherd boy

  • who couldn't study at night in his village,

  • like all the village children,

  • because the kerosene lamp,

  • it had smoke and it damaged his eyes.

  • And anyway, there was never enough kerosene,

  • because what does a dollar a day buy for you?

  • So he invented

  • a cost-free solar lamp.

  • And now the children in his village

  • get the same grades at school

  • as the children who have electricity at home.

  • (Applause)

  • When he received his award,

  • he said these lovely words:

  • "The children can lead Africa from what it is today,

  • a dark continent,

  • to a light continent."

  • A simple idea,

  • but it could have such far-reaching consequences.

  • People who have no light,

  • whether it's physical or metaphorical,

  • cannot pass our exams,

  • and we can never know what they know.

  • Let us not keep them and ourselves

  • in the dark.

  • Let us celebrate diversity.

  • Mind your language.

  • Use it to spread great ideas.

  • (Applause)

  • Thank you very much.

  • (Applause)

I know what you're thinking.

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B1 INT TED language applause arabic kuwait teaching english

【TED】Patricia Ryan: Don't insist on English! (Patricia Ryan: Don't insist on English!)

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    VoiceTube   posted on 2013/04/14
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