MÊME LES CHINOIS LE DISENT

MêME LES CHINOIS LE DISENT

Article très intéressant à la une du Globe and Mail de samedi dernier (ci-dessous).

On y apprend qu’un certain M. Li se considère un messie linguistique et qu’il prêche
le salut de la Chine par l’apprentissage à 300 millions de jeunes Chinois de cris en
anglais, cris qu’il faut pousser à tue-tête. M. Li penserait que « l’anglais est la
langue élue par Dieu pour règner sur le monde». «La Chine a 5000 ans d’histoire. Mais
aujourd’hui, c’est une nation arriérée. Nous devons apprendre l’anglais pour être
concurrentiel.»

M. Li serait le professeur d’anglais le plus connu en Chine, treize millions de
personnes auraient déjà assisté en cher et en os à ses conférences.

Je n’ai pas perçu de critiques ou des réserves de la part du Globe and Mail au sujet
des affirmations de M. Li. Est-ce à dire que le Globe se réjouit de ces affirmations sur
le choix divin de l’anglais, affirmations énoncées, c’est un avantage, par un étranger.
On pourrait également se demander pourquoi cette histoire se trouvait en page un.

Patrick Andries
pandries@cafi.org

========== Globe and Mail, Toronto, le 19 mars 1999 ==============

Why Crazy English is sweeping China
The teacher became famous by having students scream out
the words. But the real star is his alter ego

Friday, March 19, 1999
MIRO CERNETIG
China Bureau

Beijing — The metamorphosis happens at sunrise, Li Yang says.

That’s when he feels an inexplicable force fill his body, transforming him from a
helplessly shy introvert into the all-powerful leader named Stone.

It is his charismatic alter ego, Mr. Li says, a linguistic messiah who preaches that
China’s salvation from poverty lies in getting 300 million young Chinese to scream English
at the top of their lungs.

"English is chosen by God to be the language that rules the world," Mr. Li
said, relaxing in his office by a wall festooned with the Chinese and U.S. flags.
"China has 5,000 years of history. But today it is a backward nation. We must learn
English to compete."

Then China’s most famous English teacher smiles and offers a visitor some soy milk and
his books.

Mr. Li’s simple message, along with an unorthodox view that yelling English phrases
makes the language easier to learn, is the basis of a home-study program called Crazy
English.

In China, where good yingwen can be a life-transforming ticket to high-paying jobs, the
masses now view this plain-looking 33-year-old as a major star.

So far, 13 million students have heard Mr. Li in the flesh, and millions more have
bought his tapes and books.

Virtually an unknown two years ago, he can fill football stadiums with as many as
30,000 people, sometimes twice in a day.

But Crazy English also comes with a dark side.

On stage, where Mr. Li’s solar-powered alter ego takes over, the English lesson is
laced with xenophobia and hard-core nationalism. His targets include blacks, Japanese,
Americans and overseas Chinese.

"We need foreigners to be servants of China," Mr. Li bellowed into his
microphone on a recent afternoon at Beijing’s Costume College as 1,500 students listen.
"The best way to defeat the United States is to learn good English."

Strutting around the stage, gesticulating like Martin Luther King, an orator whose
style he has carefully studied, Mr. Li screamed into his microphone: "I am an
absolutely anti-Japanese element.

"I know lots of Chinese hate the Japanese so much," he yelled as nervous
laughter fills the auditorium. "They say they will never learn their language. But
this is absolutely wrong. The more you hate it, the more you have to learn it. . . . The
Japanese nation is too horrible."

As for the 50 million Chinese who live outside China, Mr. Li attacks them for daring to
mix Chinese and English when speaking to each other.

"These overseas Chinese are arrogant. They are bats, neither animal nor bird. They
are homeless. How can we tolerate the Chinese language, with 5,000 years of history, being
polluted by English?"

On the subject of black Americans, he says they speak substandard English that should
not be copied because of its slang. "American black people talk like that. What we
should learn is educated and standard English."

And on it goes, until the crowd is shouting out Mr. Li’s English phrases. ("My
father is a bad man" is one he offers up for memorization.) The students stand in the
aisles, chant slogans such as "I am Chinese" in unison and later line up to get
his autograph when the lecture is over.

"He is a special man for special times," a quiet young man said of Mr. Li,
who tells students that he flunked out in English until he started yelling it out.
"Today he is one of China’s great men."

Asked about his attacks on outsiders, Mr. Li said he considers them all "little
jokes" to raise the passion of the audience and "get them into it." He says
not to worry; he would censor such jibes if he happened to be working in the West, because
"when in Rome, do as the Romans do."

In fact, that is what the native of China’s Xinjiang province habitually does in
interviews with foreign journalists, who don’t get to hear such attacks in English.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Li’s pedagogical approach has become controversial in China.

While some scholars have praised him for getting the Chinese to lose their inhibitions
about learning a language, others have called it bad scholarship. Schools in at least two
Chinese cities have banned Crazy English, criticizing Mr. Li’s methods for helping
students learn the intricacies of the language.

Crazy English, in fact, tends to play down grammar and stress U.S.-style pronunciation,
which accounts for Mr. Li’s near perfect Midwest accent but somewhat precarious hold on
grammar.

Nevertheless, the Crazy English fad shows no sign of waning.

Hundreds of People’s Liberation Army soldiers recently yelled Crazy English with Mr. Li
on the Great Wall, a sign of some deep support in the government. Rich Chinese are known
to pay thousands of dollars for a private lecture.

"Some people say I have something special," said Mr. Li, who added that he
was once so shy that fellow students called him "Ghost." Then he got their
attention by shouting in English.

"Some people have some blind worship toward me. Sometimes it scares me."

That has not stopped Mr. Li from dreaming of more influence over the masses who
desperately want to learn English and move up the social ladder. His plans include setting
up a "Crazy English Cadre Training School" to help recruit
"disciples."

And he wants to "be the godfather" to the children of 100,000 Crazy English
families across China, whom he plans to personally sanction with the Crazy English seal of
approval if they create a proper "English-speaking environment."

"I’m doing spiritual business," he said. "I can get everyone’s kids as
my godson."

Asked if he is building a religion, or a cult, or perhaps a political movement, Mr. Li
laughed. Such questions dog him, particularly in China where personality cults have a
history of unleashing violent mobs; that is essentially what happened when Mao Tsetung
began rallying his Red Guard during the disastrous Cultural Revolution.

Mr. Li said his mission is not political or religious. He is simply trying to give to
the Chinese a version of the American dream: to move from rags to riches by learning
English and outwitting foreigners in the global marketplace.

That is why, he said, his office is now stocked with health and personal hygiene
products from Amway. He is studying the U.S. company, recently banned from direct selling
in China, because he wants to learn its distribution techniques.

When he gets 100,000 Crazy English families signed up, he plans to let them sell Crazy
English merchandise, from books to soda pop. The idea is to get rich quick, multiplying
his company’s $4-million in annual revenue many times over.

But Mr. Li claimed not to be a millionaire, saying he has only $8,000 in his bank
account and sleeps in his office, under the U.S. and Chinese flags.

He said he is now developing Crazy Chinese for foreigners, no easy task.

But building his empire has been exhausting, Mr. Li said, and he hasn’t been getting up
at sunrise lately.

"I’ve got to start getting up with the sun again," he said. "That’s
where I get my power."

STONE DIARY
An excerpt from Li Yang’s diary, in which he writes about discovering his alter ego,
Stone. He gives these passages to millions of Crazy English followers:

I listened to [a recording of] the universe-shaking speech by Martin Luther King, I
have a Dream. I became so excited . . . because Stone also has a dream.

Martin Luther King seemed to say, ‘Stone, act!’ with his voice, which was sonorous and
forceful, full of sympathy and determined fighting spirit. I would answer at once: ‘Yes,
Dr. King, I must act at once!’

I would go to the top of the ninth-floor building to welcome the best time of my life,
bringing along a piece of blanket to put on the floor. So Stone began to have his Crazy
day!

I shouted in English, Japanese, German and French. I was infatuated and drunk with the
charm of each of these languages through practising them, as if I was living in heaven.

Waiting for the sunrise — to me, it was such a holy moment. I felt myself melting in
the brilliant sunshine.

I am beautiful!

I am brilliant!

I am striking!

I am warm!

I only felt that God was looking at me with his kind and magnificent eyes. I am so
lucky. I felt I owed God a lot. So in my heart I determined: Stone must be successful!

Christmas Day, 1990.

(Translation by Zheng Nan, The Globe and Mail)