Mad About English

Back in August last year I wrote a short entry on a new movie about Beijing’s attempt to learn English for the Olympic Games 2008. The movie was titled “Mad About English!”, and I finally got round to renting the show this week for a viewing.

And what a hoot the show was! The show is a documentary of sorts that features several story threads interwoven into a consistent narrative: the city’s huge, and at moments, crazily hilarious, attempt to get its people up and running on English in preparation for the tourist hordes that descended during the Olympics last year.

Funnily though: before watching the movie I was half expecting a satire pokes fun at those efforts. Mad About English! however proved to be much more than that. One cannot help but admire the immense effort the Beijing Chinese from all walks of life put in to learn the language: from little children, to shop vendors along the Silk Street market, police officers, chefs and waitresses at the roast duck restaurant, taxi drivers, and even retirees determined to do their bit as hosts.


The film follows the efforts of several key characters. There’s the 11 year old girl whose visibly proud mum sends to a learn-English boot camp that’s is run almost militarily like. By the camp’s end she’s so physically worn out, but happily meets her goal of learning the language. There’s the story of a Chinese, nicknamed the Crazy English Teacher, and his city to city efforts to teach thousands of people English. The taxi driver who stumbles on his early encounter with an Australian couple seeking directions to the Silk Street market, but resolves to do better and indeed does better by the show’s end. And the most poignant bit for me: a 74 year old retiree who resolved to learn English when he was 68, and eventually volunteers to bring tourists around the Forbidden City museum.

If nothing else, the film shows the resolve of a united people determined to be the best possible hosts in The Sporting Event of 2008 (no not the F1 LOL). Highly recommended, and bears up too to repeated viewing.:)

2 Comments to Mad About English

  1. CY says:

    I was rewatching the film again, and am again just awe struck by some of the scenes. There’s a scene where a class of retirees and senior citizens each stand up and explain to each other why they’re learning English. Both fun to watch and yet greatly heart warming at the same time.:)

  2. Matt says:

    I’m going to definitely check this program out soon.