China is probably the only country in the world where English teachers can rise to 'rock star' status. Great Britain's Independent newspaper recently published a great article explaining this phenomenon, titled Crazy English: How China's Language Teachers Became Big Celebraties:
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
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…
English-language training in China is an industry worth around 15
billion yuan a year, or about £1.3bn, and there are more than 50,000
English-training organisations in China. In Beijing alone, some 200,000
people took English classes last year.
As they say, read the whole thing.
While I have not risen to star status (maybe because it's been 20 years since I actually TAUGHT English here—or maybe not), a former teammate of mine has, and I recently got to see this in action. He now works for an English teaching company in Taiwan that produces programs that are shown on TV here. Last week he was in Beijing on business so we met for dinner. Afterward, on the subway, I noticed a couple of girls pointing at him and giggling. Finally, one of them got up her nerve to come and ask him if he was Mr. XXX of the English program. He said he was and they jumped up and down and squealed with joy. When the subway reached their stop, they asked us to get off too so they could take photos of them with the English Teacher Rock Star.
It was all quite amusing.