English as a Shouted Language
December 31, 2008 10:10 PM   Subscribe

"Conquer English to Make China Stronger!" is the philosophy of Li Yang, founder of the Crazy English school (and style) of language, described by some as "English as a Shouted Language" for its main method of shouting English words in public to overcome shyness. Li Yang has achieved Elvis-like popularity in China, not just through his public lectures but also through the sales of books, media, teaching materials, and a memoir titled "I am Crazy, I Succeed". Li Yang's unorthodox methods - which include encouraging students to "lose face" and cope with embarrassment on the way to success - have earned him fame and fortune, including headlining the 5th Beijing Foreign Language Festival and being the main English teacher for China's Olympic volunteers. Li Yang's secret to success: "... to have them continuously paying—that’s the conclusion I’ve reached."
posted by divabat (10 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I love that: "I am Crazy, I Succeed." Words to live by.
posted by jayder at 10:53 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seriously, one of my rituals is to pretend I'm teaching the language I'm studying and to explain it to an imaginary student, thus clarifying it in my own mind. This doesn't strike me as too dissimilar.
posted by RavinDave at 12:12 AM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think some of his students have tried to strike up conversations with me via IM.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:10 AM on January 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

This reminds of the Ruby programming convention of naming methods that change their object with exclamation points at the end (Array.reverse! for example). So basically if you want things to change you should get excited.
posted by srboisvert at 2:50 AM on January 1, 2009

Reminds me of an observation in the end of The Diamond Age; Hackworth is pogo-ing across the mainland and the locals stare at him in awe. They respect him because he is crazy.
posted by grobstein at 9:58 AM on January 1, 2009

Yeah, but they don't just respect Li Yang -- they throw copious amounts of renminbi at him for what is (at heart) warmed-over snake-oil.
posted by RavinDave at 10:17 AM on January 1, 2009

This is a wonderful idea - one of the greatest barriers for anyone learning a new language is getting up the courage to use it, even when you know you are going to make mistakes. I've seen this fear of embarressment in myself - and even as I recognise it, it is hard to overcome.
posted by jb at 11:05 AM on January 1, 2009

Hey grobstein, I'm reading that book right now for the second time!

Anyway, yeah it's great that a second language is being successfully popularized. The whole "to make China stronger" is scary though. We need a strong Chinese populace, strong enough to stand up against their overpowering Chinese government.
posted by parallax7d at 11:25 AM on January 1, 2009

The camp had a military motif: supervisors dressed in camouflage, with megaphones, escorted students in formation around the campus. Li’s face could be seen on oversized posters everywhere, accompanied by English phrases. Above the stairs to the cafeteria: “Have you thought about whether you deserve the meal?” Along the plaza where they lined up before lectures: “Never let your country down!” Above the doorway leading into the arena: “At least once in your life, you should experience total craziness.”

this bit about the intensive training camp sounds like something between a clockwork orange and fightclub, it sounds fascinating, the sort of thing to do to see what total euphoria feels like or a moment of complete transformation.

it's so weird there's all this incredibly dubious stuff with the nationalist populism and this anti intellectual thing going on and then there's all this great stuff about completely letting yourself go, expressing yourself, becoming more rabidly confident, things which all sound like an implicit critique or subversion of the traditional chinese way of doing things. even with the anti intellectual thing he's got professionals (who you wouldn't think succumb to personality cults) from all sorts lining up to do it! it's like do you really have to beat the barbarians at their own game to gin up the strength to become a healthier individual? it's a really compromised, contradictory but compelling organisation of wills and desire. i'm probably giving myself away here as borderline sitting duck and first signatory of crazy charismatic cultman but sometimes a rush for a soul sounds like fairgame.
posted by doobiedoo at 3:47 PM on January 1, 2009

When I lived in Wuhan in 1988, the only things that the locals would shout at me in English were 'Hello!', 'OK!' and 'Change money!'.
posted by oats at 8:44 PM on January 1, 2009

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