The country with the most English speakers--China
I wish we could get that kind of enthusiasm here. It sounds like he has his own version of English immersion. It is the best way to learn whether you live in China or immigrated to the US from Mexico or South America. Bilingual education remains a failure and crutch.
"Where are you from? Do you speak English?" It's a familiar phrase near the Forbidden City in Beijing, or along the capital's Nanjing Road, as Chinese people try a standard opening gambit to spark up a conversation with a foreigner. Many visitors baulk at being approached so baldly, and are worried that it could be a scam. Very occasionally it is a con – and tourists should be wary when some nice young people offer to bring them to a tea house – but mostly the youngsters are desperate for access to real live Anglophones who can help them improve their conversational English.
Chinese people are becoming more and more obsessed with speaking English, and efforts to improve their proficiency mean that at some stage this year, the world's most populous nation will become the world's largest English-speaking country. Two billion people are learning English worldwide, and a huge proportion of them are in China.
And sometimes it seems like most of these eager students are learning from Li Yang, who is the true folk hero of the English-language-training business. Li founded the "Crazy English" movement, which now involves him visiting a dozen cities a month and lecturing in English to crowds of up to 30,000 people. His books sell in the millions.
The principle is that "you can't learn to swim in a classroom" – so "Crazy English" teaches language learning as a form of mass activity. At a recent tutorial in Beijing, students passed large banners saying, "I can realize all my dreams" before entering the classroom to sample Li's inimitable mixture of English-language teaching and motivational speaking. There is even a touch of the evangelist about him – though he is preaching to the converted – and the enthusiasm of the response is amazing, with plenty of arm-waving, fist-raising and punching the air.