What is Crazy English and who is Li Yang?

But while huge numbers ofChineselearn English in school, only a handful are able to translate their skill at reading and writing, earned through hours of staring at books, into spoken English.

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A popular myth about China is that it has the largest number of English speakers in the world, if you count the 300 million people studying the language.

Crazy stands for the single-minded pursuit of dreams. Crazy stands for the total devotion to your work. Crazy stands for the passion of commitment to reach the goal, says the courses guidebook.

Crazy English, or Fengkuang Yingyu, is Li Yangs attempt to break that oral barrier. Instead of writing sentences, students stand on the roof and scream them. One Chinese newspaper described the course as English as a Shouted Language. While Crazy English still involves rote-learning, it has excited students with its mass rallies, during which everyone chants together, without embarrassment.

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There are Crazy English DVDs and CDs, books and stadium shows.

As a child, however, Mr Li said he was cripplingly shy. Even after enrolling at the mechanical engineering department at Lanzhou university, he found it difficult to pass his exams. It was in 1987, before a mandatory English exam, that he discovered that if he shouted out his homework, he learned it more easily. In the annual English exam, he came second.

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By 1997, Li was travelling from city to city giving classes in front of as many as 5,000 people. As his fame spread, he was recruited to help teach English ahead of the Olympic Games, as China boosted its efforts to welcome visitors.

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For many Chinese, the allure of learning English is a financial one the promise that it will be a gateway to a brighter future. Crazy English has marketed itself not just as a linguistic exercise, but as a route to self-transformation.

More than 20 million people have allegedly signed up for a course.

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Mr Li outlined his ambitious plans to the New Yorker magazine in 2008, saying that he wanted a retail chain of Crazy English schools that would be like Starbucks.

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After graduation, he took a job at a state-run electrical research institute but continued to teach English on the side. After a brief stint as an English language host on television, he set up Crazy English in 1994.

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Mr Lis parents went out to the Chinese countryside during the Cultural Revolution, heeding Chairman Maos call for students to live with peasants. His father was an important cadre, running the provincial broadcasting bureau in the far west province of Xinjiang.

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People would get off work and just go to the Crazy English Tongue Muscle Training House and then go back home. Just like a gym, he said.

What is Crazy English and who is Li Yang?

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