Response to Patricia Ryan’s call not to insist on English

Patricia Ryan: Don’t insist on English!

In her 2011 TED Talk, Patricia Ryan urges us not to think of English as a necessity for would-be, could-be students and scholars. She points out that the world has lost many languages and continues to do so at an alarming rate — another language is lost every two weeks — and draws attention to the way educators in English-speaking countries weed out non-English speakers, making the ability to speak and understand English fluently an absolute necessity for anyone with hopes of studying in certain countries.

This is a big deal.

I don’t have a solution to offer, and the truth is that at the moment I feel inept even to phrase the problem as eloquently as I would like to. So I will just take this opportunity to write something I said (for the umpteenth time) last night: it would be wonderful if everyone learned multiple languages from childhood so we could share ideas and insights in myriad languages and across cultures, taking advantage of (instead of being frustrated by) the different nuances of each one. Meaning would not be lost, and so much would be gained. And I think it’s a do-able (or at least approachable) goal with the right conditions. Maybe someday…

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About Christine Ghattas

Christine Ghattas (Christine Bonnie Ghattas) is a teacher and artist from the United States. View all posts by Christine Ghattas

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