Crazy but 'best' way to learn English

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 12:00am

Practise, practise and practise was the best and only way to learn a language, according to a linguist who has stormed the mainland over the past 10 years.

Advocate of 'crazy English' Li Yang was in Hong Kong prior to the showing of the film Crazy English directed by Zhang Yuan. The film of Mr Li's adventure will be shown at Lim Por Yen Film Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre from August 11 to 31.

Mr Li is now the most famous English teacher in China. More than 13 million learners had attended his lectures in over 100 cities.

To learn a language, one had to train one's tongue muscles, said Mr Li. And his methods involve practising a system of yelling slogans integrated with body movements.

'If you speak Chinese all your life, you can pronounce Chinese easily. But it will be extremely difficult to pronounce English.

'Practising as loudly, quickly and clearly as possible are the three ways to train your tongue muscles to be flexible,' he said.

Born in Xinjiang and a graduate of mechanical engineering from Lanzhou University, the 31- year-old teacher said he used to be an extremely shy boy.

'I was abnormally shy when I was young,' he said. 'But there were two things that changed my life.

'The first happened in 1988. I started yelling in an open area and practised for two hours a day. I eventually obtained the second best result in an English examination.

'The second thing was when I first spoke in public. I had asked my classmates to put up posters announcing that I would talk about methods for studying English. I prepared it for five days and practised for 15 hours each day. Just before the talk, I almost cancelled it because I was so scared. But I went ahead and that changed my life,' he said.

He analysed the reasons why many Chinese had spent so much time learning English but still could not get good results. He found that textbooks were outdated and written by Chinese scholars; most English teachers in China could not speak the language well and learners had the wrong attitude.

'Chinese are afraid of losing face,' he said. 'It makes them lose many opportunities to practise English. For many, the purpose of learning English is not for communication, but to pass tests.' He said motivation could make a difference in learning.

He emphasised the urgency of learning English to learners.

'English is an international language. If you want to communicate with the world, then learn English,' he said.

'And I will find opportunities for students to gain a sense of achievement. Sometimes people are discouraged because they don't see any improvement after hard practice sessions.

'But I think what impressed them most was when I said: 'Your future is in your hands. If you want to be somebody, you have to learn English'.' Crazy English has no doubt won Mr Li millions of followers, but it is not welcomed by conventional teachers.

A few years ago, language teachers in China wrote an article to newspapers to persuade students not to follow him.

Mr Li said their action was understandable. 'They face the biggest challenge they have ever met.' Graphic: ENG14GYO