Mad and Mad About English




















 Mad about English is a  documentary by  Singapurian  director Lian Pek that portrays the Chinese community which goes mad in learning English before the Beijing Olympics. Documentary which rather has the features of a docu-drama is shot before the commencing of the Beijing Olympics. The china which otherwise is still a country where English language penetration is minimum, was forced to a peculiar situation of learning English that too in a short span.

As the preparations for Olympics 2008 reached final lap the Chinese government made it mandatory to learn English for all Chinese who would be associated with the Olympics directly or indirectly.

At least as much English as their vocation demands, to communicate with the foreigners during Olympics.

Mad about English has clearly depicted the mass hysteria of the people who started learning Rapid English for Olympics. From common men to professionals how madly they tried to master the English language , some voluntarily others  by force (as it was compulsory for them to learn English  to work during Olympics) and the innovative ways of learning a language.. the documentary captures it all…..

This docu drama has the pace, freshness and dramatized appeal of a bollywood film song.  It portrays the desire of Chinese government to present English speaking modern china, to the world while ensuring a hassle free experience of Beijing and Olympics to foreign visitors. At the same time gives a glimpse to the heart warming efforts of the Chinese people in a touching way.

It speaks about the determination of Chinese government and Chinese people, the propaganda used and how it was carried out to perfection by using all the means of media and government machinery.

Doc shows how the government with all available media format from radio to television and bill boards to interpersonal communications, attempt to create an urge in the people to learn English, before the games.

 It was mandatory for the volunteers’ cab drivers, sales people, doctors, students and people from all walks of life, who are supposed to be associated with Olympics, to learn the English and pass an English proficiency test before Olympics. Each person will be tested for English proficiency in relevant to his profession.

Mass English learning classes are conducted everywhere and intensive training was given to the people. From students, cab drivers, doctors, cops to all those who will have to interact with a foreigner during the Olympics in one way or the other, gets the coaching.

The documentary captures these eccentric efforts of the government as well as the Chinese in most spectacular way, through various case studies. The doc after featuring the mass hysteria then portrays the hurdles in learning English, the hard work Chinese put to learn English, still how they struggle in their war with this alien tongue.  Story moves through the efforts of an old lady doctor, an elderly man who wants to be a volunteer for Olympics, cab driver, a cop, English student and many more such people who have to pass the English exams. There is also a grammar cop appointed by the Chinese government, whose job is to find the spelling and grammar mistakes in the English bill boards and hoardings in Beijing streets and rectify it.

Mad about English   is interesting because of its dramatic picturising and narration. But in its effects to over dramatize it, the documentary drags in the middle, looks repetitive and lacks objectivity. Instead of presenting the story as it is by depicting the Chinese governments’ propaganda and Chinese people’s plight as well as the spirit to learn English, the documentary itself becomes propaganda, as it is madly advocating the merits of English irrationally. It turns out to be a more effective propaganda than that of the Chinese government itself.  The way film comments that English is the future of the Chinese and the world, somewhere takes out the logic and authenticity from the documentary. Otherwise it is a worth watching documentary for its vivid, lively and colorful presentation of a wonderful saga of community spirit.



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