'Sexy Mandarin' sets tongues wagging

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 June, 2012, 12:00am


A new website that offers Mandarin lessons taught by lingerie-clad young women has come under fire from a women's group, which says the practice promotes harmful stereotypes.

Sexy Mandarin, headquartered in Hong Kong and geared towards Western customers who want to improve their grasp of the language, aims to provide lessons 'in a sexy and unconventional way'.

In each lesson, scantily clad models strike provocative poses while saying basic Mandarin phrases. The video clips - shot in a studio in the Philippines, according to the website - simulate playful situations in car-washing, a medical check-up and even 'arrests' featuring a model in a police costume to teach words and colloquial terms.

Clients can log on to the Mandarin Learners Channel on YouTube to view the latest lesson for free. The channel, which has its own Facebook page, has more than 1,300 subscribers and features advertisements for fashion accessories and lingerie.

The Association for the Advancement of Feminism accused the company of 'selling sex or sexualised services under the packaging of language tuition'.

Annie Chan, the group's chairwoman, said the site 'sexualised and exoticised 'Chineseness', and is obviously trying to capitalise on some Westerners' stereotypes of Chinese women'.

'We do not believe that sex work or sexualised work is necessarily immoral or harmful to society. It is the discrimination, exploitation and harassment of sex workers that is immoral and harmful to society,' Chan said. 'That is the way that such work is promoted on this website.'

The company's advertising pitch invites customers to learn Mandarin - the world's most widely spoken language, with an estimated 1.2 billion speakers - in 'the sexy way'.

'Follow our models explaining how to ask for the time, learn basic numbers and other important phrases,' it says. 'The qualified and sexy teachers have much more to offer than just their looks.'

The Sunday Morning Post has received no response from Sexy Mandarin on the complaint.

Interest in learning the language has soared in the region, with China having introduced more than 300 Confucius Institutes in 94 countries to promote Mandarin, also known as Putonghua, since 2005.

The central government claims 230,000 people have enrolled so far in these institutes, which cannot meet the demand. China sends 5,000 teachers abroad each year and is hoping to be running 1,000 institutes by the end of the decade.