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2007-08-25 English Learning Craze in Beijing
    2007-08-25 17:34:45     CRIENGLISH.com

Y_Welcome back to Listeners' Garden on China Radio International. I am Yunfeng.

Z_And I am Zhong Qiu. Welcome to topic time. As we are talking about the English learning craze in Beijing today, I have to mention one little anecdote that I encountered just a few days ago.

Y_I'm all ears.

Z_Well, the other day, while I was shopping in the department store, I overheard several shop assistants discussing a question about English expressions. And that was a department store where there are not many foreign customers now.

Y_Oh really? Can you tell us what they were talking about?

Z_Sure. They were talking about something like how to greet an overseas customer in English, by starting with "May I help you?" or "Can I help you?" And one of them said that these two expressions were both okay, but "May I help you?" would sound even milder. You know, people are really getting ready for the Olympic Games!

Y_That's interesting. And as far as I know, many people like these shop assistants are keen to learn English as the Olympics waits for no one. Less than one year to go´

Z_Yeah. I agree. English is a very handy language when it comes to communicating in an international event like the Olympics. So it's no mystery to me why there are so many Chinese people, especially those in the service sectors, are showing a great interest in learning it.

Y_Exactly, I've talked to quite a number of taxi drivers who are also learning English. And many volunteers are also making their language preparations as well. All these are part of an ongoing English learning campaign that many Beijing citizens are participating to prepare for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Z_Uh-huh. Today we'll visit an ordinary Beijing residential community to find out what's going on with their learning experience.

(soundbites of English lessons)
"!Can you sign here please?
!Ok. Thank you.
!Can I have that bill please?
!Certainly. Here you are sir.
!Thank you´

Y_ This is an English class in the Tuanjiehu residential area in northeastern Beijing's Chaoyang District during the weekend. All class members are with the community's English Association for the Olympics.

Z_Most of the association members are retirees. Xia Fengzhi in his 60s is one of them.

(act in English)
"Let's meet at the hotel. Let's meet on Friday."

Y_And he is passionate about learning English.

(act in English)
"Yes, I am in charge of the English Association in Tuanjiehu Community."

Z_As the head of the community's English Association for the Olympics, Xia Fengzhi and several other friends began to learn English after China won the bid for hosting the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing in 2001.

Y_Wow, that was six years ago and there is now less than one year to go before the Games. How time flies!

Z_It seems just like a blink of an eye, doesn't it? Well, let's now listen to Xia Fengzhi about how he felt about these past six years and the Olympics.

(act in Chinese)
"Ever since we won the Olympic bid, more people joined in our community's English classes. In the year 2005, we founded the English Association for the Olympics. As the association expanded, I became more and more interested in learning English. Many of us are volunteers for the Beijing Olympics as well. So during the event, we will be helping overseas tourists with their shopping and sightseeing whenever needed."

Y_Now, his association has grown into the biggest of its kind in Beijing. The English learning campaign in Beijing is also encouraging more people to become more comfortable speaking English regardless of their age, occupation and education.

Z_And Hu Zhiyun is a new member of the Tuanjiehu English Association. She told us that she just became an Olympic volunteer. She wishes to do something for the first Olympics to be held here in Beijing, China.

(act in Chinese)
"By the time when the Beijing Olympics comes, I believe many foreign friends will come to visit Beijing. Not all of them can speak Chinese, I think, so it would be better for me to talk to them in a language that they can understand. English is a language that's widely used around the world, so I would learn to speak English so that I can tell them where to go if they want to find a certain place, and introduce some Beijing folk customs and local delicacies to them. At the same time, it will also be an opportunity for me to learn about their culture and customs, and enlarge my horizons about the world. I hope I can be an excellent Olympic volunteer."

Y_Hu Zhiyun says she will keep going to the English classes organized by the Tuanjiehu Community English Association. And hopefully she will talk to us in fluent English next time.

Z_Looking forward to that. But I really would like to know who are teaching these Beijing residents English.

(teaching soundbite)
Y_Well, let's meet one of them, Edward Ohlin, from the United States, who is now working in Beijing. He is a volunteer English tutor for the English Association in Tuanjiehu Community.

(act in English)
"There is a passion now about learning to speak English. And I find the students are eager and captive and interested in learning. People are interested in what's going on in other parts of the world. When you confront them, they have an interest in history, both the history of China, and other parts of the world. I find the students teach me as much about Chinese social customs, and about how the Chinese people perceive things. And I think understanding Chinese people helps me when I go back to work each day."

Z_Well, it's amazing that people from different cultures could come together for one goal, just like an united force.

Y_That's the power and charm of the Olympics, I believe.

Z_Alright, time now for a short break.

Y_And we'll be back with more on Listeners' Garden.

Z_Stay tuned!

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