PUMPING UP THE VOLUME!
China's Li Yang is the reigning master of the shouted word!!!
by Anne Meijdam / Beijing
Li Yang shares a secret known to drill sergeants and Amway distributors: effective motivational speaking is largely a matter of volume. It is, after all, a high decibel level that has made Li what he is today - China's most successful English teacher, a pop-cult figure who draws more than 30,000 (dutifully) screaming pupils to seminars/rallies held at venues including Beijing's Forbidden City and the Great Wall.
Li practices what he calls "Crazy English," an unorthodox method of instruction that can be best described as English as a Shouted Language. With rock and rap reverberating for backround music, a typical seminar sees the 30-year-old Li strutting about on stage like James Brown, leading his stuttering disciples in mass yell-alongs consisting of English slogans, buzzwords and catch-phrases. "No pain no gain, no pain no gain!" Li barks. "Don't be afraid to make mistakes and lose face! Learning English is not mental work! It's physical work!"
He certainly didn't learn the instructional technique at one of China's iron-pantalooned universities. The self-described "real loser" says he hit upon Crazy English while failing his English lessons at a Lanzhou academy. He found he could remember better and speak more clearly by baying pronunciation drills at street lamps and overflying pigeons.
Not a study habit for the library, but Li claims the epiphany helped him overcome his inhibitions and turn his life around. Like most rags-to-riches self-help gurus, Li also came to the realization that he wanted to inspire others with his formula for success, and that it would be nice if he were paid handsomely. Although his wealth is not known, nine years after Crazy English's roll-out Li says he has reached some 14 million Chinese through tutorials, seminars, books and tapes. There are even Li copycats, a sure sign of commercial viability.
Li says it is everyone's patriotic duty to prosper, and prosperity requires a command of English. He explains his zeal for noisily spreading a foreign tongue: "It's not because I love America. It's because English is the standard in the world and Coca-Cola and Microsoft rule." If China is to be an economic power, its citizens must speak the language of global commerce well enough to be understood - and loudly enough to be heard.
Crazy English has plenty of critics in academia, who question whether one can learn the theory of relativity by repeatedly screaming E=MC2. Li, answering detractors, says Chinese universities are "governed by fossils." He swears that just four Crazy English sessions can cure shy people of their phonetic phobias. At the very least, his students won't doze off in class.