The Chinese company Sexy Mandarin has been contentious from the very beginning. Many people criticized that it`s just selling sex and sexualized services under the packaging of language tuition. On the other hand, there are also many followers who feel excited about it. Its key theory is very fascinating, which is that Mandarin can be very beautiful and sexy. Is it really effective? Do the sexy ladies divert students` attention? How did the founder come up with the idea? How is the class going? With so many questions, I did a trial lesson with their model Wendy, who was also a tutor, and then talked with the founder of Sexy Mandarin. Kaoru Kikuchi is the founder and she is Japanese, indeed. It`s very interesting that a foreigner became a spreader of Chinese and even tried to change the traditional learning style. At least, if you want a date with a Chinese person, Sexy Mandarin can help you immediately. We would expect more interesting Chinese language learning programs coming into existence. Now, let`s get to know Kaoru Kikuchi and her Sexy Mandarin!
CJ: Are you also a Chinese learner? Share with us your learning experience.
Kaoru: Actually, I was in Shanghai at Shanghai Jiao Tong University for six months. The reason why I learned this language is really funny. Initially, I was in University in the UK for three years, studying architecture. And at first, it was really weird, because I didn’t really have any interest in learning Chinese. Unfortunately, the Japanese media is really bashing China all the time, as you can imagine. So, I was not interested. But then I saw all these British people taking Chinese in University, and I thought it was really strange because I thought: “Well, who wants to learn Chinese?” because in Japan, no one really learns Chinese or anything. And then I thought: “Okay, cool. Everybody is taking Chinese. I’ll take Chinese too, as an extra credit.” And then I went to the Chinese Department, and they said, “Sorry, we’re all fully booked. There’s no space for you to take Chinese.” I said, “What?” And that was my first year in the University, and in the UK, it’s a three-year course. So, every year, I went back to the Chinese Department, but it was always fully booked. And then, one of my Chinese friends in the UK said: “Hey, why don’t you apply for a scholarship to learn Chinese in Shanghai?” I said: “Oh, that’s so cool.” So, that’s what I did, and then, because I got the scholarship, I went straight from UK to Shanghai. And then, of course, my mom said: “Why are you going to China? It’s so dangerous. ” I said: “No, I’m going to go. I’ve heard lots of good stuff about China. Not bad stuff like in Japan.” And I went, and, that’s how, I came across Chinese initially, because I was so eager to take this class that I was never able to get into because it was always fully booked.
CJ: Could you please introduce your Sexy Mandarin team?
Kaoru: We have people from France, China, US, and Japan. It’s very international. And there’s one thing we all have in common; we all speak, or kind of speak, Chinese, or have a passion for learning Chinese. So, because of that, we get along very well because we share the same interests as well, even though we’re all from different countries. So, it’s really great. We have freelance teachers. So, some of the teachers are in Philippines, and they’re full-time. We try to build their images by having them in the Philippines, because there’s a studio there and they do lots of photo shoots and lots of videos. And then we have the part-time teachers who are located in Hong Kong, but they’re all from mainland China.
About Sexy Mandarin
CJ: Why did you start Sexy Mandarin?
Kaoru: When I went to Shanghai, all my classmates and I had class from 9AM to 12PM. You probably know this, those intensive classes that you have every day and they’re really boring. We have ugly teachers. And then, I felt that we’re not really learning anything. You know, just that the more Chinese I could speak, the cheaper the stuff got. I mean, that’s how I learned my Chinese. And then, all my guy friends are getting so bored in school. I thought: “How come all these teachers are so ugly? I’m not learning anything. I don’t have anyone to impress.” So, I said: “It’s really bad.” I was thinking: “Oh, we should have this in the textbooks.” I found that they all use the same textbooks. “How can that be? I mean isn’t there any other textbook?” Like, if you want to learn English, there are so many different textbooks, right? So, I thought: “Oh, you know, there must be some kind of better way of learning Chinese than this,” and that’s how I really started Sexy Mandarin.
CJ: Why did you design the sexy style to learn Mandarin? Did you just want to have a beautiful teacher? Is it effective?
Kaoru: Well, I think so. I mean even my mom takes the classes; she’s probably one of the few female students. No one chooses to have ugly things or ugly whatever, right? Everybody wants something nice or something pretty, or, you know, something that tastes good. So, that’s why I thought, if you’re going to learn Chinese, why not learn from a pretty person? Why don’t we just have sexy people teaching Chinese, and people might learn faster. And these people might want to learn, so that they can impress people. I mean, it’s a very good incentive. It’s like language and sexuality. It’s linked, I think.
CJ: How many videos have you made? And I saw that your videos are very short. Why? Do you also sell those videos? Is there any teaching methodology?
Kaoru: Well, I think currently, we have about eighty. We sell these videos in a DVD, actually. We even sell it on Amazon in US and Germany. Usually, a video consists of about four sentences, right? And there’s always about one or two people talking in the clip. So, we have more than one word we’re teaching, and the thing that we do with these lessons is that we try to group them– when someone like Wendy is just taking a class based on the clip, we have words that are related to the dialogue that they’re speaking. For example, if you’re learning that you’re hungry, we of course then learn “I’m so full,” in Chinese. And if it’s spicy, then we give a few examples of spicy food that is eaten in China. Things like that. And then that way, in one lesson, you have more than just learning five to ten words. You have a lot more. And then that’s great because, some students would like to focus on just the dialogue and learn that, but some students are really dedicated to learning Chinese and want a more advanced learning experience; they can learn all the other extra words that the teacher teaches in the virtual classroom, and then they end up learning maybe thirty words per lesson. And it’s all dependent upon how motivated the student is. You can see in the pricing page that we have prices for value, motivated, and determined. You know, we even label the packages on how motivated people are.
CJ: How many models do you have now? Are they all Mandarin teachers?
Kaoru: We have thirty-five teachers. They’re all on the website. I think you’ll notice that some of them actually won’t teach our virtual classroom, the one that you did with Wendy. So, that’s what we call the virtual classroom. Some of them are actually just models. But we try — it’s really difficult to find beautiful people that can also teach and are a good teacher.
Strength of Sexy Mandarin
CJ: And why do you think your service is more special than other language schools?
Kaoru: Actually, I’m really naughty. I mean cheeky, but I sometimes pretend to be a student and try out other services. So, I’ve tried out most of the virtual classroom services offered on the Internet. I have to say that a lot of these virtual classroom schools have no experience with lighting and production. We have a lot of this kind of experience. For example, like your camera right now. I can’t see your face completely because you’re backlit, right? So we try to make it as professional as possible. We have a professional lighting crew light up the set so that, for example, when you have lessons with Wendy, she’s lit up nicely. She looks really professional and beautiful in front of the camera.
CJ: Besides an online video and lesson service, what else do you offer?
Kaoru: Well, we also have students wanting to take one-on-one lessons, not through the Internet, but in person. So, we do offer that kind of service to some students that really want to have that. And we also do a lot of merchandise. We’re now developing a notebook. It’s two hundred pages long, I think. Each page on the notebook has a different Chinese character, and then it has all the information on how the Chinese word derives from images, so we have all these really cool ways of learning characters. Especially Western people, Chinese characters are really complicated for them. It’s a totally different concept from alphabets, right? So, then when they see these pictures, they will be able to learn faster.
Query about Sexy Mandarin
CJ: I thought you just focused on male students.
Kaoru: Yeah, I mean 99% of the people are male students, but my mom is also one of the students. She’s learning Chinese now. You know, it’s very strange because when I first went to China, she only knew China from the news and Japan. So, she was very negative about it. But when I invited her to Shanghai while I was there, she really had a good time there. She loved Chinese people more than Japanese people. They’re more passionate. They’re more friendly. And now she’s so interested in learning Chinese, she’s totally learning Chinese from Sexy Mandarin.
CJ: Then what are the biggest challenges you face?
Kaoru: I think the biggest challenges, are that some people might not take the classes seriously. Because it’s Sexy Mandarin, people who are looking to learn Mandarin seriously might not take us seriously. And I think that’s the biggest challenge for us, because when people actually take the virtual classroom, they realize that it’s a serious learning site. But, on the website and all the clips, it doesn’t look that serious. To be able to kind of show to the students that we’re actually a serious learning site is probably the most difficult part of this project. You know, I’m sure if we had a website with a serious looking teacher and clips with really serious kinds of settings, then it would be a different story.
CJ: And some people commented that your site is obviously trying to capitalize on something, Western’s stereotype of Chinese women. You are just selling sex and the sexualized services under the packaging of language tuition. How do you want to respond?
Kaoru: Well, some people are saying, “Oh, you’re making these Chinese girls look so submissive and this is a really bad image for China and the girls there.” I don’t think that’s the case, because if they really were submissive, then they wouldn’t be doing this, right? I think it’s more like these girls are manipulating the Western man, so they’re the submissive ones, if that makes sense.
CJ: Then your service was reported on by many videos, by a lot of media in 2012. Now, in this year, what’s new about your site? Any difference?
Kaoru: Well, back then it was more about our clips. We weren’t really teaching online. This is a new project started this year. We’ve only started this as a fun project. We thought: “Oh, let’s have sexy girls dressed in lingerie teaching Chinese,” and we just made it. I mean, initially, it was just me and then two Chinese girls, and the video camera. I mean, the shooter. I made all the scripts and then just bought some lingerie, and then dressed up the girls. And I shot six episodes in two days, and then edited it and just put it on YouTube, and then somehow all the media decided to feature it because it was a really interesting concept.
CJ: Then could you please tell us your future plans for Sexy Mandarin?
Kaoru: Well, the future plan is to really develop. This virtual classroom thing is a very new concept, and of course it’s actually new for everyone in the world. Because it’s a new technology, it’s really difficult to have. People don’t really believe they can learn online, with a teacher. They still think they should go to a school, and meet the teacher there, and sit in front of the table and learn, and things like that. So, our new goal is to really make this learning online like an intuitive way of learning. It’s something that you can do when you have time. You don’t have to commute to schools. You don’t even have to meet the teacher in person. And when you have free time to learn, it’s really time saving, as well. So, yeah, we’re trying to push this new concept to people who are used to the conventional way of learning a language.
CJ: Okay, the last question. What do you want to say to our readers and all the Mandarin learners?
Kaoru: I would love to tell them that Sexy Mandarin is actually a serious learning site and we will give free trials to anyone who’s interested.