Li Yang is the most famous English teacher in China. Some consider Li Yang as the Bill Gates in China’s education industry. By founding the Crazy English teaching method, Li Yang has brought a wave of English learning across China since the 1990s. Recently, Li Yang got a new title, the “General Coach of Olympics Volunteers”. He and his teaching group have become the language training supplier of 10,000 major volunteers for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But there are also controversies surrounding this man. Our reporter Liu Min has more.
For many English learners in China, Li Yang and Crazy English are always connected. Crazy English is an innovative teaching method that encourages students to shout phrases out loud, quickly and repeatedly. In his lectures, which are sometimes attended by as many as 50 thousand people, Li Yang asks students to yell out words with hand gestures stressing the pronunciation. He also mixes motivational concepts, nationalism, self-confidence together with humor in his lessons.
“Now, stand firm and tall. Make a face. Get excited and yell it out- I must do it. I can do it. I will do it. I will succeed!”
Figures show that Li Yang has lectured for over 20 million people in China, Japan and South Korea. Media from 30 countries, including Canada, the U.S and Australia, have interviewed him. In 1999, a documentary was shot about his Crazy English.
With such background information and his achievements, it’s time to let him give a self-introduction.
“Hi, this is Li Yang, I graduated from Lanzhou University and majored in technical engineering. I was once a poor student of English and it was my big headache and trouble maker.”
Li Yang said he was once a shy and introverted young man and had bad marks in college, including for English. When preparing for the TEM 4, a national English exam for college students, he found it more effective to read the text out loud. So he did it every morning. Four months later, his language skills had been greatly improved. He passed the exam and won the second highest mark in his college.
Tasting the flavor of success, Li Yang became more confident. He continued to practice his listening and oral interpretation skills and gradually concluded a set of effective English learning method, people called it “Crazy English”. Surprising to all, one day in 1989, he posted up a notice on campus, saying he would give a lecture on how to study English. The lecture received applauses from many college students. Since then, his business intuition began to grow. He held a Crazy English training course and charged each person 8 yuan, or about 1 US dollar. Several hundreds of people entered the training course and Li Yang got his “First Pail of Gold”.
After his graduation in 1990 Li Yang became an assistant-engineer in Xi’an, capital of Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. During the time there, he shouted out English, French, German and Japanese on top of the office building every morning, perfecting his crazy language learning method.
A year and half later, Li was selected by China’s first provincial English Radio Station in Guangdong and later became the most popular English news anchor in the region. Li never stopped his practice. He dubbed advertisements that were widely broadcast in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. He became the specially-invited translator at the U.S. Consulate General and was jokingly referred to as an “all-function translating machine”.
With the target of helping 300 million Chinese people to speak excellent English, Li Yang founded his Crazy English Promotion Studio in 1994 and later established study centers across China. By giving lectures and publishing DVDs and magazines, Li Yang and his Crazy English became well-known, and a hot wave of English learning swept across China.
In 2000, upon an invitation to lecture in Japan and South Korea, Li brought Crazy English across Asia. Japanese TV Station NHK introduced Crazy English for 7 minutes in a news program. Then a research center was set up in South Korea, followed by the publication of its teaching magazine there.
With the revolution he has brought to English education, Li could not help but become a controversial figure. Some criticized Li as an all-out business man, rather than a teacher. Besides, there is no short cut in learning a language no matter how loud one may shout out phrases and sentences. He never denied his business ambition. In his words, he is “a teacher who wants to be a businessman.”
At the age of forty, Li Yang is making ambitious plan with his new job of training volunteers for the 2008 Olympics. He says before the Games, he will lead 10,000 volunteers to the Bird Nest, which is the major venue for the Olympics, to hold a public English speaking movement that will be the biggest ever in the world.