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Online learning resource uses underwear-clad models to teach Mandarin


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An online learning resource has made headlines for its use of topless models to teach Mandarin.

Featuring a cast of busty Eastern models and a bespectacled cartoon professor, Mr. Fung, students of are supplied a series of interactive videos that combine softcore girl on girl action with situation-based language learning.

While it certainly caught our attention, we’re inclined to wonder how much learning is actually going on.

The website is the brainchild of topless model Kaoru Kikuchi, 25, who runs the Hong Kong-based company with partner/director Michael Gleissner. Kikuchi graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2008 with a degree in architecture. She moved to the Netherlands to pursue a modelling career and has been featured in magazines such as FHM.

Kikuchi’s unique approach to language learning is, quite unsurprisingly, going viral. As of July 3rd, her videos have drawn more than 450,000 views. She’s recently expanded her website to include Japanese language version of the service which is set to be just as popular.

However, the website’s success rate in educating users on conversational Mandarin is still unknown. RazorTV, the televisual arm of the Singapore Press Holdings, interviewed Singaporeans for their thoughts on the series, and most said that they found it inappropriate more than educational. Others remarked that the use of scantily clad models is demeaning to women and the language itself.

The videos themselves have attracted mixed press. A senior teacher from Beijing's Mandarin Connection School, called the initiative “attention-grabbing”. prefer “ingenious”. The Chicago Tribune went as far as to call it “an excellent primer in basic Mandarin” and a refreshing take on what can be a repetitive and onerous task.

The Hong Kong-based Association for the Advancement of Feminism has also taken exception to the site (no surprise there), claiming it “exoticizes” and objectifies Eastern women.

Kikuchi is unfazed by her critics. "If you go the textbook way with all these Chinese characters it just makes you intimidated," she says. "If you start with the colloquial way … or sexy clips it is a different story.”

She might be onto something. Second language acquisition is notoriously difficult, and requires tremendous willpower. But when it comes down to it, what can lingerie-clad models and Mr. Fung really offer prospective students apart from a pleasant distraction?

Still, the pair’s business could not have come at a better time. Mandarin Chinese is spoken by more than 1-billion people, making it one of the world’s fastest growing languages. Furthermore, China's thriving economy means it is being studied more and more in the West. None more so in the United States where it has acquired ‘chic’ status.

So, does this mean the end of tattered textbooks and tweed-wearing tutors? We’ll have to see. 

Watch lesson one, What Time Is It? below: 


Follow Kikuchi’s progress at @SexyMandarin


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