The Chinese internet is debating the merits of speaking English

Society & Culture
Hispanic teacher writing ÔABCÕ on chalkboard

A patriotic troll on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo has almost single-handedly set off a massive debate about whether English skills are useless for most Chinese people.

The now-deleted Weibo post that sent the internet ablaze was published on March 17 by @花千芳 (in Chinese), who described himself as a 41-year-old freelance writer in his Weibo bio. The entire post reads:

“For the vast majority of Chinese citizens, English is a trash skill that wastes numerous people’s money and energy. Learning the language takes up an unnecessary portion of precious childhood years. Those who ferociously defend the merits of learning English are either professionals working in the English-learning industry or self-diminishing slaves. Just have a team of translators to work for you if you need to read English documents or Wikipedia. I see no point of encouraging the whole nation to learn English. And that’s what I call real stress relief.”

While the post was deleted by @花千芳 after attracting over 20,000 comments (unfortunately we were not quick enough to screenshot any of them), the controversial remarks have been picked up by many media outlets. They encouraged internet users to share their opinions (in Chinese), which turned out to be overwhelmingly negative.

Here are some examples that best represent the general reaction:

Screen Shot 2019 03 19 at 4.32.53 PM“A pig’s life is all about eating, drinking, sleeping, and going to toilet. Everything else is redundant.”

Screen Shot 2019 03 19 at 4.33.35 PM“You can stop your own child from learning English. Mind your own business.”

Screen Shot 2019 03 19 at 4.34.07 PM“It’s like driving. Which one is more convenient for average people? Learning to drive or hiring a driver?”

Screen Shot 2019 03 19 at 4.34.33 PM“You don’t get many opportunities to use the things you learned from Chinese language, math, physics, chemistry, and biology classes. So why not just lay down after birth?

Screen Shot 2019 03 19 at 5.04.07 PM“It’s useful, because you can ask foreigners in English: Do u speak Chinese?”

Screen Shot 2019 03 19 at 4.35.42 PM“These people will forever have to join tourist groups when travelling abroad.”

Screen Shot 2019 03 19 at 4.33.23 PM“Idiot.”

The controversy also caught the attention of Wáng Sīcōng 王思聪, the self-indulgent billionaire scion of Wanda boss Wáng Jiànlín 王健林 and arguably the biggest, and sometimes the most masterful, troll on the Chinese internet.

As someone who has studied abroad, Wang commented: “In the year 2019 there are still some dumbasses who’ve never travelled in a foreign country?”

Screen Shot 2019 03 19 at 5.11.31 PM

@花千芳, of course, took the comment personally and found it extremely offensive. He unleashed a series of angry posts in defense of himself, demanding an apology from Wang for calling him a “dumbass.”

“China is a developing country where most people here never went abroad. I don’t feel ashamed for them. We are poor but we work hard,” he wrote. “I am asking for an apology on behalf of these people.”

However, those who he assumed would get behind his message seemed unwilling to be part of the spat.

“Don’t try to drag millions of us who never left the country into this. He is apparently calling you a dumbass, not us,” one Weibo user wrote (in Chinese).

Also see: 

The actual worth of Chinese language proficiency