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 empower the citizens through education. And of course, the U.K. benefited from some of that lovely oil wealth.