Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is seen in this 2016 video footage lambasting the English language, insisting that the teaching of English is part of a Western plot to undermine other languages.
In his speech to a meeting of teachers and other educators in April 2016, the Supreme Leader said, “English is not the language of science. Western countries want to promote their own English, language, and I have previously repeatedly told Department of Education officials but have not told the officials present here today that this insistence on promoting the English language in our country is an illogical act. Yes, foreign languages must be understood, but foreign languages are not only English; the language of science is not only English. Why don’t they introduce other languages as ‘language lessons’? Why do they insist only on English?”
He indicated, “This [English language] is the legacy of the tyrannical era [rule by the Pahlavi dynasty]. This is the heritage of the Pahlavis’ reign”.
He added, “What about promoting the Spanish language in the country as the number of Spanish-speakers worldwide is not less than the number of English-speakers in many countries, such as Latin American and African nations and many others? I am citing this only as an example though, not intending to promote the Spanish language or wanting to work for their [Spanish-speaking nations’] favor and advantage, but simply giving an example. What about the French language, the German language – aren’t they taught in this country”?
He continued, “What about the languages of the developed countries of East Asia – why they are not considered suitable for teaching since they are also foreign languages and languages of science? Dear people, in other countries they pay attention to this issue and prevent [foreign] influence and interference and the development of foreign language in their countries; however, we [Iran] have now become ‘more Catholic than the Pope’ and opened the field up for this; in addition to making English the exclusive foreign language, we’re now introducing it to the lower [school] levels and grades such as elementary schools and kindergartens. Why in kindergartens”?
He asserted, “We are seeking to promote the Farsi language [in Arab and other regional countries], and we have to spend massively financially and work hard for this; when a Farsi course is closed down in a country we’ve had to make diplomatic calls: ‘Dear why did you close down the Farsi course?’ They don’t allow us. They don’t offer students scholarships, nor giving any privilege just because we want to promote and spread the Farsi language in a country. But then we promote their languages with our own money, our expenditure, our efforts and our problems in our country – is this a logical act? I don’t understand it. I state this in parentheses in order for everyone to understand and pay attention. I don’t want to say that from tomorrow we must shut down English lessons. I don’t mean that. What I want to say is that we should know what we are doing. We should know the other party [Western countries] how they seek to raise what kind of a generation in the country and with what sorts of characteristics.”