Chinese road sweeper has brush with fame over passion for learning English on the job

Television footage shows street cleaner practising his language skills as he goes about his daily business

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 4:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 6:37pm

A Chinese street sweeper with a passion for learning English has demonstrated his unusual techniques for studying on the job.

A news programme on Heilongjiang Television on Friday showed Wang Shoushan, dressed in a sweeper’s jacket and a soldier’s cap, squatting on the roadside and writing English and Chinese translations on the pavement in the northeastern city of Harbin.

When asked by a reporter, Wang, 64, answered in a mixture of English and Mandarin that he had studied English for more than a decade but still felt he had only learned a “smattering … I am always a beginner”.

Originally from Zhejiang province in eastern China, Wang commutes more than one hour by bus to take an English course at a local college every Monday, according to the report.

In the course of his work he sometimes comes across discarded pieces of chalk which he uses to write on the pavements and at others he picks English exercise papers out of the bin to test himself.

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The report said Wang also asked primary school students to correct his pronunciation and practised his English through brief chats with foreign students.

The television segment showed his writing in English on a piece of paper where he described his hometown.

It read: “I come from a small village in Zhejiang. There are only six hundred people in the village. But the land is rich and the people are wonderful. Our village is very beautiful.”

In another note, Wang wrote: “Our motherland is going through great changes now … I want to speak good English because English is an international language.”

“If I have a chance to go abroad, at least I will be able to find the restrooms, and not disgrace the Chinese,” Wang told the reporter.

Even though his wife questioned why he was devoting his time to learning English at this stage in life, Wang said he would carry on with his studies.

“I am not afraid of learning late,” he added. “I am afraid of having a short life.”