foreign language acquisition and teaching


foreign language acquisition and teaching
The ‘English fever’ of the 1980s continues. The international tongue suggests one’s success and profit. Japanese is also popular. Xinhua News Agency reported in 2001 that China had over 3,000 foreign language institutions with the annual turnover exceeding 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) or 1 per cent of the GDP. English skills have become a decisive factor related to one’s income.
Those proficient in English reap an annual income of US$53,378 on average; it plays a favourable role in evaluating professional titles and promotions. Shanghai International Studies University (Shangwai) and Beijing Foreign Studies University (Beiwai: www.bfsu.edu.cn) are leading institutions with degree programmes in many languages which also accept foreign students for Chinese education. Private schools that specialize in TOEFL and GRE, IELT, CELPIP and GMAT preparation, are ubiquitous. Li Yang, founder of ‘Crazy English’, is perhaps China’s most unorthodox but profitable English teacher and a pop-cult figure who pushes his audience to shout patriotic slogans in English.
Radio and TV foreign language programmes, some of which are hosted by foreigners such as Canadian Mark Rosewell (see Dashan), are broadcast daily. The Internet offers another channel. The translation industry is booming and English-language dailies, periodicals and books are numerous. Foreign words such as ‘WTO’ are common in speaking and writing (see neologisms). Since September 2001, children in Beijing have begun their study of English in grade three, while all other primary schools begin in grade four. Thanks to the 2008 Olympics, the Beijing municipal government has called on its officials to take a three-month English-language training programme, and taxi drivers and residents are urged to study English, too. Shanghai offers English classes from grade one on. English is even a compulsory subject in many kindergartens in big cities, where ‘English corners’ for people to speak English with each other are popular spots in major parks and on college campuses.
Lü, Haibo (2002). ‘The Profitable English Language’. Beijing Review 7 (November): 8.
HELEN XIAOYAN WU

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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