The Linguist

The Linguist 57,4 - August/September 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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10 The Linguist Vol/57 No/4 2018 FEATURES T he General Secretary of the Iranian Supreme Council of Education announced last year that it is now illegal to teach English (officially or unofficially) in the country's private and public primary schools and kindergartens. The news, which came with a threat of serious punishment for those who infringe this law, was a surprise to many Iranian families, who tend to see English as a necessity for their children. The controversial decision is the upshot of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's intense opposition to the widespread use of the English language among Iranian youth, and the ideology of the current government, which seeks to limit the influence of Western civilisation, including restrictions on social sciences and the arts. The Supreme Leader had stated in 2016 that the promotion of English as the language of science had endangered Iranian culture, and that it should be banned as soon as possible. On bringing the ban into effect, he went further: "There is no reason for Iranian educators to promote English as the most important language. This will not bring us any considerable benefit…Why should our official curriculum be based on a language in which the Shah and the pre-revolution government had such a great interest? Are we following their rules?" He continued: "We know that other countries make their best attempt to forbid the promotion of any foreign language. They believe that teaching foreign languages is a way of imposing foreign cultures on their domestic cultural life and this might be dangerous for the whole society. Why don't English-speaking countries promote our language, Farsi?" The ayatollahs have never been in favour of English, and have vehemently condemned it for political and ideological reasons during various historical eras. Modern education in Iran was officially established around 150 years ago, under the leadership of the Shah, and use of the English language then developed rapidly under the Pahlavi Dynasty (1925-79). This was largely due to the dominance of the US and UK in science, international diplomacy, trade and technology; the close political, social and economic bonds between Iran and the US; and the Shah's tendency towards socioeconomic progress and military domination in the Middle East. The more powerful Iran became (both economically and geopolitically) in the last years of the Shah, the more popular English became. The establishment of high-quality English-language schools, as well as the translation of English literature and drama into Farsi, were products of the Pahlavi period. Since then, English has become so important to Iranians that they have shown a consuming interest in it, calling it the language (زبان). So if you ask an Iranian "Do you like the language?", it means "Do you like English?". English denied Reza Shirmarz considers the impact of the Iranian government's decision to ban English-language teaching

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