The Requirement of English

An interesting TedTalk by Patricia Ryan, an English teacher with over 30 years experience in the Gulf. Ryan stresses some of the repercussions of the spread of English as the international language and the reality of a system that equates intelligence with a knowledge of English.

“Can it be right to reject a student on linguistic ability alone? I don’t think so.”

“I hear you say, ‘What about the research? It’s all in English’… that is a self-fulfilling prophecy… I ask you, ‘What happened to translation?'”

Ryan’s talk presents an interesting connection to our own experiences teaching in Kipili, where English is seen as the key to continued learning but often becomes a barrier to opportunity. It also sheds light on how to embrace the diversity of languages and harvest the rich cultural knowledge embedded within them.

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July 10, 2008

Me Again!

Almost the end of Week 2, and we’ve started to settle into our home here. This was our “cultural experiences” week before starting at school and I think it was everything we could have hoped. We learned how Tanzanian women cook and clean without the luxuries that we are used to at home.  You realize how different the pace of life is, especially when basic chores take hours longer in Tanzania.  We also had 30 staff laughing hysterically at us today when we tried to cook “Ugali” for them for lunch. We started at 9:30am, and served it at 12:30pm.

As I think I mentioned in the last email, the Tanzanian staff here are simply amazing. They feel like our older brothers, and we have so much fun together joking around, despite the language barriers. They all want to learn SO badly and want to continue their educations, but it’s a complete uphill battle. There is one dictionary on the island, and they take turns borrowing it to try and learn more…but that’s about it for learning supplies. Most of them are working to pay for younger siblings to go to school – ultimate sacrifices of love – because the staff here are only a bit older than I am and send every penny home to their families.

We went to Kuranda on Wednesday (30min boat ride away) to do some shopping at the market, and two staff members came with us and showed us around the town because that’s where they grew up. It was an AMAZING morning – I will remember it for the rest of my life I’m sure. We went to Noddy’s aunt’s home and all the children started SCREAMING and crying and running away because they thought the “Mzungu” (white people) were going to eat them. Everyone was just yelling “Mzungu” at the sides of the roads, and parents would try and get their kids to touch our hands but the kids would just scream and cry. Eventually though, we busted out the few Swahili phrases we knew, and just crouched to the ground and put out our hands…and the brave kids came for high fives. Eventually, ALL the kids wanted high fives.  We ended up with a trail of about 20 kids behind us going around the village, all taking turns holding our hands.

Unfortunately electricity time is up – but I can report that we are still alive and have a growing number of stories to share when we’re home.

Sending a bigggg virutal hug home!

Lots and LOTS of Love,

xoxox Kate (and Kaitlin)