U.S. Embassy Congratulates YALI on 35 Years of Teaching Excellence
March 20, 2010
On March 20, the Yemen-America Language Institute (YALI) celebrated its 35th anniversary with a gala dinner in the YALI courtyard. In his keynote address, U.S. Ambassador Stephen Seche congratulated YALI on the anniversary and praised the institute's remarkable contributions to promoting quality English instruction and cross-cultural understanding.
Originally established by the United States Information Service in 1975, YALI has grown from a modest institute with a few classrooms into Yemen's premier language institute, with thousands of alumni who are now leaders in government, the private sector, and civil society. The U.S. Embassy conveys its best wishes to YALI on the occasion of the 35th anniversary and looks forward to the next 35 years of teaching excellence.
Remarks delivered by Ambassador Stephen Seche:
Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I am honored to be here tonight to celebrate with you the very special occasion of YALI's 35th anniversary, and to thank each of you for the contribution you make to ensure that the unique role YALI has played in Yemen for over three decades will continue well into the future.
In 1975, when YALI was established by the U. S. Information Service in Sana'a, it filled an important need in Yemen. Today it has imitators throughout Sana'a – all sounding like direct descendents of YALI – There is MALI, there is CALI, there is DELI.
I guess imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery.
Clearly, these YALI wannabes understand the value of appearing to have an association with this institution, which has earned its reputation as the premier language institute in Yemen one student at a time. YALI's success has been forged over the years by the relentless optimism and determination of American and Yemeni educators who believed - and still believe - that providing the people of this country with an opportunity to learn the English language is a noble endeavor.
The goal of those who established YALI 35 years ago was to help prepare Yemenis for government service, to enable them to engage in international business, and to bridge the cultural divide that separated much of Yemen from the English speaking world. Thirty-five years later, these goals remain very much a part of YALI's mission.
Since its very beginning, YALI has occupied this site where we gather this evening. This was the home to the U.S. Information Service (USIS) in Yemen and it housed the American Library and the staff of USIS who opened the Fulbright educational exchange between Yemen and America in 1971.
YALI's classrooms in this building complex were established four years later. The first English language classes were modest, but the demand for English language instruction was so great that soon the infant YALI was pushing into space occupied by the Library and staff offices.
Over the years, YALI's formula for English language instruction has become the model for other language institutes in Sana'a, as well as the universities charged with preparing their students for advanced degrees in Engineering, Computer Programming, Medicine and other disciplines that require knowledge of English.
But I would suggest to each of you that there is another – possibly less pragmatic, but, to my mind, more important - reason to study English.
As I do so, I am reminded of the observation of Herbert Spencer, a British sociologist, who said that "The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action."
As YALI grew to meet the insatiable demand for English language instruction, it became the center for discussion and cultural exchange between Yemenis and Americans.
And because language conveys our values and our aspirations, as we learn to speak and to read and to understand the language of another, so too do we learn to understand that person. And slowly, the curtain of mystery and misunderstanding is lifted, and we see that other person for what he or she really is, because we are able to understand – in their own words – what it is they believe in, and why.
And I am convinced, as I know each of you is as well, that in this process of cross-cultural communication lies one of the most effective ways to defuse conflict and to generate true community among people of different religious and cultural backgrounds.
For truly, if we cannot speak to each other - and more importantly, if we cannot hear each other - how can we ever hope to break down the barriers between us that generate mistrust and fear and, too often, violence.
The American Embassy in Sana'a is proud to have established the Yemen American Language Institute in 1975, we are proud to have supported and nurtured its growth for the past 35 years, and we look forward to a long and prosperous future together. This truly is a relationship and an occasion worth celebrating.
As we do, we also celebrate the administrators, teachers and staff of YALI who devote themselves each day to the success of this institution. Your efforts contribute to much more than just the abilities of individual students to expand their horizons and open new doors for themselves in their personal or professional lives.
Your efforts contribute to that most elusive of human interactions: communication. The distinguished American journalist Edward R. Murrow, who also served as the director of the U.S. Information Agency under President John F. Kennedy, once said that "the crucial link in international exchange is the last three feet, which is bridged by personal contact, one person talking to another."
It is this process that is at the heart of what occurs within these walls every day, and it is my hope that it will continue for many, many years to come.