A guide to teaching methods part 1: Crazy stupid English

I’m intending to try and catalogue some of the numerous language teaching methods that exist. Please let me know of any you’d like me to focus on.  I’m hoping to expand the list as time goes by. Here’s the first one, let me know what you think.

Name: Crazy English (Fengkuang Yingyu)
Creator: Li yan, The Elvis of English
Country of origin: China
Popular in: China
Vintage: Around 1994
Philosophy: “In order to learn English you need to be crazy…you have to be 110% involved.” and “the secret of success is to have [students] continuously paying.”
Number of students: 20 million
Research support: None
In a nutshell: listen and repeat drilling on a Chinese scale.  

https://youtube.googleapis.com/v/5AjRkWm1jAU&source=udsAnything else:Crazy English involves huge numbers of people shouting at each other in stadium rallies that can reach up to ten thousand people.
Criticism: It’s largely unknown outside  China but Kingsley Bolton calls it “Huckster nationalism”. Li is charismatic and learnt English in China -not as a rich overseas student which gives him a lot of credibility among the people. He’s also unashamedly nationalistic.  Some have described ‘crazy English’ as being rather cult like and this wasn’t helped when as  The shanghai daily reports  in 2007 Li told his female students that if they shaved their heads to show their determination he would let them become his disciples. The New Yorker tells of a student selling blood in order to raise the money for a ticket to attend one of his stadium lessons.
Li’s star has perhaps started to fade after it came to light in 2011 that he was a wife beater. His American wife uploaded photos showing the after effects of domestic violence at his hands and wrote that Li had “knocked me to the floor.[…] sat on my back […] choked my neck with both hands and slammed my head into the floor,” “The pair divorced in 2013 but recently Li has been bragging about his exploits saying:

Those who know I hit my wife, raise your hand! I am the spokesperson for domestic abuse!… This is a cultural clash between China and America; it has nothing to do with domestic abuse. One day, the Party and the state will rehabilitate me. I was doing something to educate Americans! My American wife was always criticizing China, accusing our Party of lying. In such a situation, could I not hit her?… Everyday accusing Beijing…She was lucky I could bear it, in America I would have shot her with a gun! (source)

 Nice! Let’s hope Crazy English disappears along with its woman beating creator.

4 thoughts on “A guide to teaching methods part 1: Crazy stupid English

  1. I enjoyed this post, Russell – I've spoken about Crazy English before in a talk about changes to language learning spaces. It's an odd but seemingly very popular (and cheap) solution to learning English when no teachers and money is in short supply. You have to admire the founder for coming up with the idea if nothing else, although as a method it probably does more harm than good. When I was looking into it, I asked around on social networks for people with experience of it, and was contacted by a teacher in China who told me she had once been rudely awoken at night by people chanting in English. After realising it was no dream (nightmare), she looked out the window and saw a group of 'Crazy English' students doing their homework on the street corner. Apparently, they are told to meet together and shout out sentences in English, repeating what one person says and chanting in unison.


  2. there is something quite cult like about it, no?It's a shame it's not in \”approaches and methods\” because it's probably statistically one of the most used methods, right?


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