Mad About English is an absolutely fascinating documentary about how the Chinese are learning English in preparation for the Beijing Olympics. It is also kind of scary: when these people decide to do something they really get it done. If you are an ESL teacher or just interested in either China or English this Newsworld Passionate Eye documentary airing July 7th at 10 P.M. is a must.
It seems everybody in China is learning English these days. There are taxi drivers of course but also senior citizen groups, young kids, shop keepers, and so on and so on. It is extraordinary to see how eager the Chinese are to learn English. Not only to be good hosts or as a government decree but as an individual aspiration for openness to the outside world.
As an ESL teacher I have to admire Lee Young: he is teaching 1.5 million students His classroom is a public square, he has no blackboard, and his class size is roughly 10,000 students. Makes you appreciate being in a union though I sure would like a mic.
Mad About English has a few comic moments like the traditional Chinese medicine doctor rehearsing for future patients: "Do you have your bowels opened regularly?" Like in any other country, some ESL books are not up to par.
Quebec Anglophones will enjoy seeing the language inspector checking the English on public signage. His job is to make sure foreign tourists will not be able to take funny pictures like Smoking Wine or Dongda Hospital for Anus and Intestine Disease Beijing. His devotion to correct English extends to restaurant menus and opera surtitles.
It is not all fun and games though. The scene where the taxi driver is having real difficulty interacting with some English speaking customers is heartbreaking because you know his chances of passing the proficiency test and getting the good jobs and the good money during the Olympics are slim ... or are they?
The connecting thread in Mad About English are Jason Yang, a senior citizen who dreams of being a tour guide for the Palace Museum, a prestigious assignment, and Chi Chi, a very young girl carrying her parents' hopes on her shoulders.
I have seen many of the documentaries in The Passionate Eye series. Mad About English is one of the very, very best.