Recently, the story of a middle-aged Chinese rag-picker went viral online. With a keen interest in English, the 44-year-old woman has been teaching herself English for over 20 years, and can now read English newspapers and translate English novels, The Beijing News reported on Sept. 29, 2018.
Yuan Yinghui was born in a village in Qingdao, east China’s Shandong Province. She began learning English in junior middle school and has been passionate about it ever since.
Yuan enrolled in a vocational high school in Qingdao at the age of 17, majoring in clothing, in which she later found herself utterly uninterested. As her classes seemed dull, and more importantly, there was no opportunity to learn English, she decided to drop out of school in her second year to dedicate all her time to English study.
Almost everyone around Yuan disagreed with her decision. Her parents hoped that she could keep her mind on her schooling so that she could find a decent job in a garment factory. People in her village judged her. Eventually, Yuan left home and lived a life on her own.
Though life after leaving home was difficult and unsettled, Yuan never gave up on her passion for English. Except for living expenses, she used almost all of her salary to buy English materials.
Since she wanted to spend a significant amount of time learning English, as soon as she had saved enough money, she quit her job and devoted herself to self-learning, sometimes for several years at a time. Listening to English news, attending English Corner activities held at colleges, reading English magazines, Yuan used every resource available in an attempt to enhance her English skills.
This continued until 2016, when Yuan became afraid that holding down a job might force her to give up on English entirely. So, in May 2016, she decided to become a rag-picker to allow herself more study time.
Last year, Yuan translated The Lost, an English crime novel written by Roberta Kray. She finished the translation in five months, with the translated text handwritten in six notebooks. “I told people I could read English newspapers, and they thought I was lying because I only went to middle school,” Yuan told local media, adding that translating the novel is her way of proving herself.
Being asked why she remained so passionate about English for so many years, Yuan explained that she wanted to make her life meaningful, and she doesn’t regret her decision. “I would make the same decision if I were given another chance at life,” said Yuan, disclosing that she wishes to become a translator and settle down in the future.