Have you ever noticed that Chinese people would love to talk to a foreigner in English even though his English is broken or that foreigner can speak fluent Chinese or he’s not from an English speaking country? I just found out there is a term for that which is called English worship syndrome.
Chinese education institution is keen on promoting English learning blindly. This foreign language fever has somehow had a bad effect on Chinese culture and mother tongue education.
This syndrome is deep down to the bone. In the big city like Shanghai, most parents have signed up weekend English classes for their kids. When the finance allows, they even hire native English speaker to tutor their kids. They don’t care if this teacher is qualified to teach English as long as English is his mother tongue. Usually a foreign tutor charges 200 Yuan an hour but a Chinese tutor can be found with only 50 Yuan.
In Shanghai, it’s hard to miss the numerous English training schools on the street. The fees are very high but the market is still growing. Why do we want to spend so much money on learning English? Is it because we truly love this language? I doubt.
Ever since we start to study English at primary school or even in kindergarten, we are always facing the tests. College students can’t get a bachelor degree if he fails to pass CET 4 (College English Test Grade 4) and English major students can’t graduate without TEM 4 (Test for English Major Grade 4) certificate. Not only does the certificate ensure the college degree, it’s also a must for some positions at workplace.
The crazy English learning certainly has reduced our time and energy in learning Chinese. I seldom hear parents take kids to Chinese classes during the weekend. They take it for granted that we don’t need to further study Chinese as it’s our mother tongue.
Both of my 12-year-old students told me that their teachers didn’t require them to practice characters when they were learning Chinese at primary school. As long as they can recognize the character, job is done. It leads to two problems: for one, a lot of kids now can’t write as many as character than we do; for another, their handwriting is terrible.
What’s worse, they say hi and bye instead of nihao and zaijian. Some of my friends like to pop up a few English words in daily conversation just to boast how good their English is. I also realized that I have exchanged so many emails in English with my Chinese fellows.
I felt ashamed when I was talking with an expat whose Chinese seems better than mine. Another foreign friend once told me a story behind a Chinese character which I had no clue. He said, “of course you don’t know that. It’s your mother tongue!” Well, I don’t think that’s the excuse.
Learning mother language is a responsibility. Protecting our language is our obligation. In France, protecting French and rejecting English is an important national policy. In Japan, they focus on cultivating foreign language elites instead of making everyone learn English. Though they speak English with funny accent, it doesn’t slow its pace of being a developed country.
Here comes another reason why we love to learn English. The government and education system make us believe that China would be stronger if every Chinese speaks English. The essence of worshiping English is worshiping foreign things. As science and technology is more advance in the west, we assume that the English language is more worth of being learnt. It’s more like denying ourselves rather than embracing a foreign culture and language.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t learn English as it is indispensible to mater a foreign language especially English in foreign affairs. However, the education bureau has exaggerated the function of foreign language. The CET gate has been open and it seems difficult to close it in a short time.
But I think it’s time to cure this disease. We could start with talking with foreigners in Chinese if they can speak Chinese and please don’t speak English with our Chinese colleagues. We should be proud of our language and give it enough dignity.