Tag Archives: Ampontan

'Conquer English to Make China Stronger!'

Ampontan points out that the media’s love for Li Yang’s instructional rallies and methods, called Crazy English, recently included a New Yorker article by Evan Osnos.

I’m pretty happy with myself because with my Mandarin tutor today I finished a textbook. But our meetings at a Beijing cafe are nothing like Crazy English.

One by one, the doctors tried it out. “I would like to take your temperature!” a woman in stylish black glasses yelled, followed by a man in a military uniform. As Li went around the room, each voice sounded a bit more confident than the one before.

In Shanghai at a gallery whose name I’ve forgotten on Moganshan Lu, I saw a photographic exhibition composed of massive prints of Li Yang’s instruction. The scenes were astonishing. Student-teacher ratio was actually optimized to be very high. The events in these images and in other reading on the subject emerge as motivational events, and one of Li Yang’s primary methods is to increase confidence in his students.

But there is a nationalist element. The title of this post, “Conquer English to make China stronger,” is Li’s motto, according to the New Yorker. Ampontan points to another article that contains this passage on China and Japan.

During a question and answer session with the crowd, one student told Li that he hated the Japanese for their rape and occupation of the mainland prior to World War II. The student then said he didn’t want to study Japanese because of this hatred.

“If you really hate the Japanese, then you will learn their language,” Li told the student and the crowd. “If you really want revenge against Japan, then master their language.”

Nationalism, I suspect, may be a tool to reach audiences and to keep his massive events (along with the potentially millions of books sold) from running afoul of the government. This, from the first article, may tell you something about his deeper motivations:

On the couch at the hotel, Li turned one of our interviews into a lecture for his employees, who crowded around to listen. (Someone recorded it on a video camera.) “How can we make Crazy English more successful?” he asked me, his voice rising. “We know that people are not going to be persistent, so we give them ten sentences a month, or one article a month, and then, when they master this, we give them a huge award, a big ceremony. Celebrate! Then we have them pay again, and we make money again.”

He turned toward the assembled employees and switched to Chinese: “The secret of success is to have them continuously paying—that’s the conclusion I’ve reached.” Then back to English: “How can we make them pay again and again and again?”

I wonder how much the students learn.

How to Fool the NYT? Cloak Self-Promotion in 'Odd Japanese' Story

Are Japanese people so afraid of street crime that they’d try to blend in as a vending machine? Well, an artist with an ironic streak and a good sense for reporter manipulation convinced The New York Times last month that they are. Ampontan responds in kind.

The Times article reported on work by the artist Tsukioka Aya (月岡彩): a set of collapsible vending machine suits, in case you want to blend in on the street. Aside from considering a 2003 work of art a contemporary trend, the Times‘ Martin Fackler swallows Tsukioka’s bait and prints her artist’s narrative verbatim.

To get the reader’s attention, Fackler declares that the suits “are greeted here with straight faces” (doubtful) and includes a truly indefensible “nut graf” full of classic tropes about “the Japanese”:

These elaborate defenses are coming at a time when crime rates are actually declining in Japan. But the Japanese, sensitive to the slightest signs of social fraying, say they feel growing anxiety about safety, fanned by sensationalist news media. Instead of pepper spray, though, they are devising a variety of novel solutions, some high-tech, others quirky, but all reflecting a peculiarly Japanese sensibility.

Let’s be fair to Fackler. The article later does acknowledge that these pieces are examples of chindōgu (珍道具, “strange tools”), a movement of odd-ball inventions that Ampontan points out has both Japanese– and English-language websites. (I’ll also allow for the possibility that Fackler submitted a less credulous story that editors changed to emphasize the crime angle.)

It’s the truly credulous tone at the top of the article that leads Ampontan to declare the Times deceased, its present operations being merely postmortem spasms. Read it.