Dear TIRF Colleagues and Friends:
Earlier this month, I was invited to attend the inaugural meeting of the establishment of the “Belt and Road Languages and Cultures Network” and its forum in Beijing, organized by China Daily. More than 60 representatives from English language associations and universities participated in the meeting, which addressed issues of diversity and globalization, multilingualism, and multiculturalism with the purpose of enhancing international collaboration and cultural exchanges with positive attitudes and mutual respect.
The focus of the discussion was on the role of English as well as other languages and cultures in internationalization. While English is a global language and lingua franca, it is important to respect the languages and cultures individuals represent when communicating through English. This forum serves as a starting point for a much-needed discussion that helps to reduce language barriers and ease cultural misunderstandings among “Belt and Road Initiative” countries.
For me, the highlight of the conference is to reconnect with our colleagues in the field of English language education, including association representatives from Brazil, Iran, Italy, Nepal, Mongolia, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, and Thailand, among others. I was pleasantly surprised to meet with Dr. Aymen Eltayeb Elsheikh, co-founder and former president of Africa ELTA. Aymen is a former TIRF Doctoral Dissertation Grant (DDG) recipient, and he is an active member of TESOL International Association.
At the roundtable discussion I moderated, Aymen shared his ideas about developing a mechanism whereby we can overcome language barriers to enhance our cooperation, and to expand our trade and economies. I felt very gratified in seeing Aymen actively involved in representing Africa ELTA in Asia because he is a former TIRF DDG recipient.
With the concerted efforts of TIRF Trustees, we have helped and honored more than 180 DDG recipients who are now working all over the world, playing important roles as professionals and academic leaders in language education. Knowing this serves not only as a reaffirmation of the meaningful work TIRF has done for years, but also the tremendous professional resources TIRF stands to unlock through its DDG network. I continue to call on outstanding DDG awardees to let us know how they can help TIRF grow towards the future. We are proud of our alumni, and we need their wisdom, support, and involvement in moving TIRF towards its future.