Li Yang (李阳) of the Shanghai-based Crazy English movement has been getting a lot of bad press lately, and Shanghai Daily‘s Wang Yanlin is the latest to chime in, with a hard-hitting piece slamming the self-styled English guru who believes that getting his students to yell out phrases after him combined with hand gestures is the best way to learn English. The media-savvy Li Yang is also a dynamic speaker on stage who clearly understands what makes Chinese audiences tick. He mixes in motivational concepts and humour together with a dose of nationalism into each of his power-packed sessions. Since he founded Crazy English, Li has been going around China “emphasizing self-confidence and saying that speaking English will help people better represent China”. But as Shanghai Daily suggests, the word “crazy” comes to mind, rather than “English” whenever Li’s on stage.
Wang Yanlin elucidates:
Last month, 40-year-old Li directed a spectacle in Baotou, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, in which 3,000 middle school students went down on their knees to show their gratitude to him.
A few days later in Wuhan, Hubei Province, Li declared that any female students who shave their heads like Buddhist nuns – to show a determination to learn English – can become his disciples.
On his blog, Li said such actions, absurd and crazy in the eyes of many, can stimulate people’s learning potential. The outlandish actions, in Li’s mind, are consistent with his ambition to “help 300 million Chinese speak good English.”
Shanghai Morning Post has also reported that for a 10-day intensive English training course starting in February, Li is charging students 12,000 yuan for a “platinum seat” and 18,000 yuan for a “diamond seat”.
Just how crazy is this man? We dug out two videos that will help you decide for yourself. On the left, you have a typical Crazy English seminar which has Li Yang throwing in jibes at ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong, Taiwan and elsewhere who “look down upon the mainland Chinese” but are “unable to speak proper Mandarin”, and on the right, hundreds of students at the Hunan University of Science and Engineering chanting “I want to speak perfect English” at the top of their lungs at 6.30am in the morning on 20 May 2007.
Shanghai Daily: ‘Crazy English’ guru a bit crazed
Photo of students kowtowing to Li Yang which he apparently first stuck on his blog and has since spread around the Internet.