In recent years, the Chinese language has become very popular, especially following the establishment of Confucius Institute Centres across the globe. Foreigners who have studied the language have always given diverse reasons influencing their interest. But the majority of them have cited business opportunities, as the major motivating factor.
A South African Model, Shamiel Hagee, is currently in Shanghai, studying Chinese in one of China’s most prestigious Universities (Fudan University ranked top 34 in the world). As one of China’s biggest cities with a population of over 27,058,000 people, and a foreign population of over 152,050 people, Shanghai is “known as a hot spot for making big bucks in Asia.”
In an interview that was published by SINEWS, the African model revealed the reasons behind his choice of studying in China, the inspiration behind learning mandarin, and his expectations after grasping the language skill.
Shamiel stated that “I think Mandarin is a very progressive language and handy to have. Furthermore, Mandarin is something I can use for the future, for whichever career path I choose. I love being able to experience a different and unique culture — it is such a contrast from South Africa — traveling around Asia and exploring new territory whilst building connections and friendships.”
Speaking further about his experience in studying the language, the African mandarin enthusiast and model said “at this moment in time, I’m studying Chinese. It’s definitely not the easiest language to learn, but it is extremely fascinating. You can see how it holds on to tradition, and the characters represent a period from 1,000 years ago. The language is very respectful when it comes to communicating with people. The grammar is completely different from the English language. It’s a mindset, not just a language — there are many layers to it, much like an onion.”
Touching on his future expectations after studying the language, Shamiel mentioned in the interview that “my plan is to master the Chinese language and use it to the best of my advantage, perhaps to operate my own business. Being the boss of my own company, or working for companies that require my skills is my goal. Either way, it’s guaranteed that I’ll be utilizing all the skills obtained in this amazing country.”
Apart from sharing his academic experience, the South African model also gave some key recommendations to foreigners who plan or wish to study in China. He is reported by SINEWS to have urged that “my advice would be to learn some basic Chinese before coming to China, just like you would in any other country that has a foreign language to yours — it’s very helpful. Moreover, you need to remember that you are coming to another country with their own set of rules and identity. Learning to adapt to your surroundings is key.” “Adhere to the laws and you’ll be fine. You’d be surprised to know how spoiled you are for being in such a safe country,” Shamiel said.
Africans Studying Chinese Language
Over the past few years, stories of Africans who have excelled in learning the Chinese language have gained a lot of traction. Earlier this year in July, as countries were intensively locked down, a Ghanaian student in China, Sylvester Demukayor, was in the news for having demonstrated his mastery of the Chinese language as he addressed graduates in the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, China.
A 32-year-old teacher, Namisi Moses Apollo, who returned to Uganda in 2015 after studying in China for about seven years, was reported to have won the hearts and minds of local youths for his efforts to improve their prospects by teaching them Chinese. Moses became a celebrity in the villages of Luwero district in central Uganda.
The Chinese language is gradually weaving into Africa. Explaining why she is studying the language in School, Sandra Wanjiru, a 13-year-old student at Lakewood Premier School in Nairobi said “I chose to learn Chinese first because it’s interesting to learn a foreign language but also because I would want to travel and do business in China.” According to CNN Travel, Julius Jwan, CEO of the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), told Chinese state-owned Chinese news agency Xinhua: “The place of China in the world economy has also grown to be so strong that Kenya stands to benefit if its citizens can understand Mandarin.”
China’s Confucius Institute Chinese Bridge Competition has enabled many African students to be exposed to the Chinese language and culture. A CNN report noted that China ranks second only to France as the country with the most number of cultural institutions in Africa; a remarkable rise given China has no colonial ties with any country on the continent unlike France and the UK, which have traditionally used cultural institutes such as Institut Français or the British Council to wield influence abroad.
As ties with China flourishes in diverse spheres like trade and infrastructure development, is it essential to have a significant number of African youths to master the Chinese language?
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