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  • I get that all the time in Dubai,

  • "Here on holiday are you dear?"

  • (Laughter)

  • "Come to visit the children?"

  • (Laughter)

  • "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

  • (Cheers) (Applause)

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

  • 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 their 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.

  • I don't know how they know that but that's what they say, right?

  • At the same time, English is the undisputed global language.

  • Could that be a connection? Well, I don't know.

  • But I do know that I have 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 UK benefited from some of that lovely oil wealth.

  • OK.

  • This is the major change that I have 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 UK and the US.

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

  • But if you are 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 is 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 till they get English.

  • 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.

  • It can be dangerous to give too many...

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • to give too much power to a narrow segment of society,

  • maybe the barrier would be too universal.

  • But, I hear you say,

  • "What about the research? It's all in English."

  • The books are in English,

  • the journals are 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 were 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 am fine with it, 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 ones being English or Chinese?

  • We need more than that.

  • Where do we draw the line?

  • This system equates intelligence

  • with a knowledge of English

  • (Laughter)

  • which is quite arbitrary.

  • (Cheers) (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 do take these tests every year.

  • You might think, you and me,

  • that those fees are not that bad, they are OK,

  • but they are prohibitive to so many millions of poor people.

  • So immediately we are rejecting them.

  • (Applause)

  • It brings to mind a headline I saw recently,

  • "Education: The Great Divide."

  • 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 is a circular thing.

  • Let me tell 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 'hindlimb',

  • 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 at 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 a lovely

  • I don't know if you saw it on CNN recently,

  • they gave the Heroes Award

  • to a young Kenyan Shepard boy

  • who couldn't study at night in his villagelike 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)

I get that all the time in Dubai,

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【TEDx】Mind your language: Patricia Ryan at TEDxDubai 2010

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    邱潔茹   に公開 2015 年 04 月 03 日
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