A Glance at the Chinese ‘English Learning Frenzy’
by Mike Lee
English language training was declared to be the second most profitable business in China at the end of 2005.
I suppose native English speaking students can never imagine six English classes every week, not including sounded reading sessions in the mornings, but this is the fact. And most Chinese students find English exceptionally difficult, and fear English tests as much as Judgment Day.
Therefore, extra lessons are arranged at school, and anxious parents determined to help their kids make them go on training courses provided by various people and organizations.
Those kids who are better at English are not much more fortunate: they are made to take tests and/or enter competitions. Some competitions promise the prize of extra points in the High School Entrance Examination. These competitions often start with about 10,000 competitors, more if they’re national.
Organizing these competitions is a great method to measure pupils’ abilities. Prize winners most probably won’t be the usual high-scorers and ‘test-machines’, but those who possess conversation skills and knowledge about English culture, which are not taught properly in most schools.
Students who have had the opportunity to study in English speaking regions mostly do very well in English at school. They are asked questions such as ‘How do you memorize words just after a glance at it?’, ‘How could you spell a word according to its pronunciation?’, etc. Well this is probably because they study English in a natural way, unlike the craming method in most schools.
Some schools, the High School affiliated to Renmin University of China (RDFZ) for instance, produce fully-qualified multilingual students with appropriate methods. Qualified teachers of English, German, Spanish, French, Russian, Korean, Japanese and Arabic are empolyed by the RDFZ, which actually out-performs many universities with language departments. Elective subjects taught in English are also available. Many delegations from overseas schools and educational agencies come to visit the school every year. And students get to practise their language and diplomatic skills.
Unfortunately, such teaching is currently available at only a few schools in large cities. Well, if schools did their work properly there won’t be as much business for English language schools. Let’s give our best wishes to English learners in China.
About the author
Mike Lee (李达健) is a high school student at The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China (人大附中) in Beijing. He’s currently learning English and German at school, and Japanese and Latin at home.