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Hotforwords.com
It is becoming more and more fashionable to lament the decline of educational standards all over the world, and today's youngsters' preference of computer games, television shows and mindless entertainment over education. But one young Russian woman has shown that the situation is perhaps not so hopeless after all and that all it takes to bring an audience into the classroom is a bit of inventiveness. Meet Marina Orlova, 27, a languages student who has managed to get several million people interested in the origin of English words and the intricacies of their usage.

How? Well, first of all she found the right medium -- YouTube, the Internet video service that has become a tool for aspiring stars in all walks of life. Marina's channel, "HotForWords," is one of the most popular educational channels on the web site.

Second, she subscribes to the motto of today's entertainment business -- sexiness. Marina exploits her blonde-bombshell looks to the maximum: She appears in her two-minute clips scantily clad, pouting and making doe eyes. This is surely the main factor in her success. However, while the number of scantily clad girls on the Internet is limitless, not all of them put so much intellectual effort into their success. A recent poll by G4, a U.S. cable channel, put her in sixth place in the "Top Ten Hot Women on the Net," and Marina's fans rightly pointed out that she was the only one who actually did something on the net, as opposed to just providing fodder for celebrity magazines.

Third, public relations and advertising are an important factor. Marina's site, hotforwords.com, is a professional and complex affair, and it's obvious that there is substantial money involved.

But what about the product itself? The clips are, of course, superficial, and far from being error-free. Marina's English could be better and it would be a somewhat unusual choice to learn about English etymology from her. Her site calls her a philologist, which betrays her Russian provenance. Not that she hides it -- there's even one clip delivered in Russian with subtitles. In Russian, a philologist is any student of languages and literature, whereas in the English-speaking world the word linguist is more often used.

Most language specialists would be either appalled by the quality of the comments or offended by the frivolous environment. But let's consider this: It is thanks to Marina that several million teenagers all over the world heard the word "etymology" for the first time in their lives and learned about the existence of the Oxford English Dictionary. As an educator, she is among the most far-reaching and successful. Our old-fashioned sensibilities must not blind us to this simple fact.
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