On China’s transition from disdaining the English language to considering it very important for individual success:
“English fever” settled on waiters, CEOs, and professors, and elevated the language into a defining measure of life’s potential—a force strong enough to transform your résumé, help attract a spouse, or vault you out of a village. Men and women on Gong’s dating site often included their English proficiency in descriptions of themselves, alongside mention of cars and houses. Every college freshman had to meet a minimal level of English comprehension, and it was the only foreign language tested. In a novel called English, the author, Wang Gang, a teacher in a rural school, says, “If I rearranged the words in the [English] dictionary, the entire world would open up before me.”
This was a sharp reversal from the past. In nineteenth-century China, English was held in contempt as the language of the middlemen who dealt with foreign traders. “These men are generally frivolous rascals and loafers in the cities and are despised in their villages and communities,” the reformist scholar Feng Guifen wrote in 1861. But Feng knew that China needed English for diplomatic purposes, and he called for the creation of special language schools. “There are many brilliant people in China; there must be some who can learn from the barbarians and surpass them,” he wrote. Mao favored Russian for the country, and he expelled so many English teachers that, by the sixties, China had fewer than a thousand high school English teachers nationwide. After Deng opened China’s doors to the world, English fever took hold. Eighty-two percent of those polled in 2008 thought it was vital to learn English. (In America, 11 percent thought it was vital to learn Chinese.) By 2008 an estimated 200 million to 350 million Chinese were studying English.
On Li Yang, a celebrity English teacher
Li peered at the students and called them to their feet. They were doctors in their thirties and forties, selected by Beijing hospitals to work at the following summer’s Olympic Games. But like millions of English learners in China, they had almost no confidence speaking the language that they had spent years studying by textbook. Li had made his name with an ESL technique that a Hong Kong newspaper called English as a Shouted Language. Shouting, Li argued, was the way to unleash what he called the “international muscles.” Li stood before the students, his right arm raised in the manner of a tent revivalist, and launched them into English at the top of their lungs. “I!” he thundered. “I!” they thundered back.
“Tem! Per! Ture!”
“Tem! Per! Ture!”
One by one, the doctors tried it out. A woman in stylish black glasses said, “I would like to take your temperature.” Li gave a theatrical shake of his head and made her do it again. Her cheeks flushed, and in a sudden burst, she bellowed, “I would like to take your temperature!” Then came a thickset man in a military uniform who needed no encouragement—“I would like to take your temperature!”—followed by a tiny woman, who let out a paint-peeling scream. Around the room we went, each voice a bit more confident than the one before. I wondered how a patient might react, but before I could ask, Li was out the door, and on to another group in the adjoining classroom.
He favored flamboyantly patriotic slogans such as “Conquer English to Make China Stronger!” On his website, he declared, “America, England, Japan—they don’t want China to be big and powerful! What they want most is for China’s youth to have long hair, wear bizarre clothes, drink soda, listen to Western music, have no fighting spirit, love pleasure and comfort! The more China’s youth degenerated, the happier they are!”
#language #anything that makes me laugh this much deserves a reblog #(”I wondered how a patient might react”) #China #interesting #this probably deserves some warning tag but I am not sure what