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Putting oomph in Chinese

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If you had seen freelance model Angie Ng strutting down Clarke Quay in search of new students, you would not say she fit into the stereotype of a teacher, with her tight latex mini-dress that featured a plunging neckline to boot.

But then again, the online language school she works at, Sexy Mandarin, is not one to be confined by societal norms.

The 21-year-old is the first Singaporean to join the controversial language site's ranks of teachers even though auditions have been held here since early last year.

The site, which has offices in Hong Kong and the United States, was launched worldwide in December 2011. It features videos of scantily clad women who act out various scenes interjected with simple Mandarin phrases.

In one video, for instance, a woman in a see-through top crawls over a couch suggestively to a phone to order takeout in Mandarin.

In another, two women are seen touching each other in bed, dressed only in their lingerie. One sits up suddenly and says, "what time is it?" in Mandarin.

Once the phrases are uttered, a cartoon character, Mr Fung, pops up on the screen to explain its meaning in English. Each video is between two and three minutes long.

Currently waiting to enter university after graduating from polytechnic, Ms Ng joined the site late last year, after she submitted her portfolio. She learnt about the site after viewing a video online.

Contrary to finding the job slutty, she finds that it boosts her self-confidence and will not allow anyone to persuade her otherwise.

So far, her parents and family do not know about her job. "If my friends or family disapprove, I would accept their opinion but it would not affect my choice," she said. "I believe in what I'm doing."

Shooting videos dressed in just her lingerie or revealing outfits also helps her to feel more comfortable in her own skin, she said. Each lesson video takes about a day to film. In Singapore, a teacher is paid around $30 an hour.

Ms Ng, who is unattached, said she would not give in to pressure even for love. She told MyPaper that she would tell her future boyfriend about this job from the get-go. "If he doesn't accept it, then I guess we can't be together," she said.

Sexy Mandarin's husband-and-wife creators, Ms Kaoru Kikuchi and Mr Michael Gleissner, a model-turned-businesswoman and film director respectively, wanted to give an exciting spin to Chinese lessons which they found yawn-inducing while growing up.

Although the videos have been slammed by feminist groups for objectifying women, the Mandarin-teaching site is still making waves for its unconventional teaching methods.

Each month, the site adds 500 subscribers. Its current tally worldwide is over 43,000, of which 1 per cent are Singaporeans. About 25 per cent of its subscribers come from the US. The rest are spread across countries including France and Brazil.

The site provides minute-long teasers on YouTube but users have to pay a fee of between $12.50 and $94.40 for a monthly subscription and access to full-length videos.

Ms Ng has starred in just one video but said she hopes for more opportunities.

"I'm a person who likes to be in a new environment, to push the limits, and I think Sexy Mandarin allows me to do that," she said.

samboh@sph.com.sg


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(Source: Angie Ng, Facebook, Youtube screengrabs, Internet, Stomp, RazorTV)