Livestreaming with cultural connotations hits China as English teachers set example for online bilingual sales
Published: Jun 12, 2022 01:49 PM Updated: Jun 12, 2022 01:45 PM
A New Oriental school in Beijing Photo: VCG

A New Oriental school in Beijing Photo: VCG

Many Chinese consumers said they didn't expect that they could learn English while going shopping online. 

The bilingual hosts, provided by the live commerce platform Oriental Selection, owned by the New Oriental Education, has recently gained popularity with more than 1.3 million fans participating in three days, making livestreaming with cultural connotations a trend in China. 

Dong Yuhui, one of the teachers at New Oriental, became a big hit on popular short-video platform Douyin. In the studio, anchors like Dong introduce products in both Chinese and English. For example, when Dong sells peaches, he also introduces the English word "peach", along with its usage in a phrase and its derivative "peachy."

Using this method, Dong sold more than 6,700 peaches in just a few minutes.

Such a method of teaching English and selling goods at the same time soon attracted the attention of young people.

Yu Minhong, the company's founder, also appeared in the studio, selling products with the teachers or hosts. So far, the studio has about 2.5 million followers. 

Talking about selling products in two languages, Yu said that this is a very important transformation for New Oriental. 

"They have changed from being teachers to being livestreaming hosts, which has attracted public attention and recognition, all thanks to consumers' tolerance and support," Yu said.

New Oriental Education and Technology Group, which was one of China's largest private education providers, dismissed tens of thousands of employees last year after an educational reform policy called "double reduction" drastically cut classes and fees and ordered such institutions to turn into nonprofits.

In July 2021, China introduced a set of "double reduction" rules to ease the burden of excessive homework and off-campus tutoring for young students, in order to promote equality in the education sector by extending on-campus classes for every student. 

The policy aims to address the most prominent problems in compulsory education -- the excessive academic burden on primary and middle school students, and the over-heated off-campus tutoring, which also overloaded parents financially and mentally, and seriously hedged the outcomes of education reform.

Amid the implementation of the "double reduction" policy, New Oriental has chosen to walk in two lines. Yu said that the US-listed New Oriental will stick to its main business of education, while Hong Kong-listed New Oriental Online has opened a new business of live broadcasting.

Driven by the popularity of the studio, many topics related to livestreaming with cultural connotations quickly hit the hot search list. "I never thought I could learn English through a live broadcast studio" soon moved to the top of the search list of Douyin. 

"New Oriental master becomes a popular anchor" and "New Oriental anchor" and other topics went viral on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform.

"It's really a good deal to pay for knowledge and be rewarded with shrimps," a netizen joked. 

"It's really great for New Oriental teachers to have the opportunity to do livestreaming," commented another. "It has provided a new route for livestreaming anchors that consumers are welcoming."

While the studio has attracted wide attention, sales have also skyrocketed. From Thursday to Friday, the number of viewers of the live broadcast of Oriental Selection increased from 650,000 to 7.6 million, and total sales in a single day went from 980,000 yuan ($146,075) to more than 10 million yuan.

Affected by the news, shares of New Oriental Online once rose to 45 percent up and close at 39.37 percent with HK$6.23 ($0.79) on Friday. Since May 12, shares of New Oriental Online have gained more than 107 percent.

At the beginning, Oriental Selection's live broadcasting was in a slump. Yu often personally took care of the goods, and the number of viewers stagnated around a few hundred for a long time.

Becoming a livestreaming anchor has become one of the principal ways for teachers in education and training institutions to transform their careers. Other education institutions such as Good Future and Doushen Education have also started selling teaching aids online, and their hosts are all teachers.

"Livestreaming with cultural connotations is more likely to be accepted by young people and parents. They can buy what they need and learn at the same time," a consumer surnamed Guo told the Global Times.