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crazy english April 22, 2008

Posted by AP in international, language.
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the new yorker reports on gearing up for the 2008 summer olympics:

China intends to teach itself as much English as possible by the time the guests arrive, and Li [Yang] has been brought in by the Beijing Organizing Committee to make that happen. He is China’s Elvis of English, perhaps the world’s only language teacher known to bring students to tears of excitement. He has built an empire out of his country’s deepening devotion to a language it once derided as the tongue of barbarians and capitalists. His philosophy, captured by one of his many slogans, is flamboyantly patriotic: “Conquer English to Make China Stronger!”

Li peered at the students and called them to their feet. They were doctors in their thirties and forties, handpicked by the city’s hospitals to work at the Games. If foreign fans and coaches get sick, these are the doctors they will see. But, like millions of English learners in China, the doctors have little confidence speaking this language that they have spent years studying by textbook. Li, who is thirty-eight, has made his name on an E.S.L. technique that one Chinese newspaper called English as a Shouted Language. Shouting, Li argues, is the way to unleash your “international muscles.” Shouting is the foreign-language secret that just might change your life.

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.

“Would!”

Would!

“Like!”

Like!

“To!”

To!

“Take!”

Take!

“Your!”

Your!

“Tem! Per! Ture!”

Tem! Per! Ture!

One by one, the doctors tried it out. “I would like to take your temperature!” a woman in stylish black glasses yelled, followed by a man in a military uniform. As Li went around the room, each voice sounded a bit more confident than the one before.

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