A friend recently shared this video to me. I’m sure some of you have heard of it, but it’s a very popular method to “learn” English in China, called Crazy English. The main gist of it: shout out everything. Check this video of a guy using this method.

Crazy English from Seth Coleman on Vimeo.

The absurdity and audacity of Crazy English is amazing. Who would’ve thought? I remember on my summer school in Beijing, seeing students shouting English in the middle of campus with no-one around.

The video however puts another perspective on how “cult” like some of these methods can become. I’ve got mixed feelings about the Crazy English thing.

1) That is no way to learn a language. You can’t just shout it out. Yes, pronunciation might improve, but that’s all really.

2) The idea of it improving confidence might just be true. Which I like. Unabashedly shouting out, no care if anyone thinks you’re crap, can improve your confidence. The “don’t give a fuck attitude”.

3) A “cult” like learning program is good and bad. Well, no-one has to explain how bad a cult is, but somehow I feel that it promotes an interest and “hope” in the language that can be positive. Yeah, I’m going on a limb here, but there’s so much enthusiasm in these learners that weren’t there before. It boils down to the whole motivation things, which you can disagree with: Is it better to have optimism, but be misplaced, or have little optimism and not be disappointed and be realistic?

Do we need a crazy Mandarin figure to incite hope and delusion in learning Chinese? Will it promote the language or do it harm? Either way, I think fear is the biggest promoter for these kind of methods and “cults”. If you don’t speak English well, you’ll have less opportunities. That fear is so deeply ingrained that any method that has a big following will seem suitable.