Chinese language study has become increasingly popular on the African continent in recent years. According to the Office of the Chinese Language Council International, China has sent delegations of language teachers to Africa as many as 210 times. There are currently six Confucius Institutes and 20 Chinese teaching posts in 11 African countries.
Beijing Language and Culture University, famous for its Chinese language teaching, has been sending teachers to Africa since the 1960s. Many of those who have teaching experience in Africa believe that Chinese language teaching will be even more gratifying after the successfully concluded Beijing Summit and Third Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
Africa's first Confucius Institute opens in Kenya
According to Gao Lianshan, a teacher who has worked at Kenya's Egerton University, Chinese language teaching has developed very quickly in Kenya. For many years, Egerton was the only university that offered Chinese language courses. Today, a Chinese language program is also available at the University of Nairobi.
In June 2004, Kenya opened its first Confucius Institute.
With the opening of tourism and the rapid growth of economic and trade contacts between China and Kenya, a growing number of Kenyans believe that learning Chinese could offer them a more promising future, Gao said. Gao's students were mainly undergraduate and graduate students, and university staff. Even diplomats have asked to join the class in recent years. Until three years ago, announcements at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport were made only in English and Kiswahili. Chinese has since been added to that list.
Mauritania begins civil service training courses
Zhu Zong'ai taught Chinese in Mauritania for three years. He said that despite the short history of Chinese language teaching in Mauritania - just 10 years - this area of study is developing steadily. In Nouakchott University, for example, Chinese is a compulsory course. In addition to regular classes, the university now also provides civil service training courses.
Zhu added that students are generally very enthusiastic about learning Chinese. Zhu recalled a farmer's son named Alhaiya who really loved Chinese culture. But his parents wanted him to study in the UK or US. Alhaiya was determined to do otherwise and worked hard learning Chinese for four years. His efforts paid off when he was awarded a Chinese government scholarship to do postgraduate course at Shanghai's Fudan University.
Tunisia trains local teachers
A Chinese language course was first introduced at the Higher Institute of Languages in Tunisia in 1998. Three years later, the Institute upgraded this to a four-year program. Lu Yingfei, who once taught at the school, said that the Tunisian Ministry of Education then established elective Chinese Language Courses in 2003. Last year, new application rules were introduced making high-school Chinese language instruction a requirement for Chinese majors at university.
This year alone, more than 10 schools have developed plans for special Chinese language programs.
Li Xiaoli, also formerly a teacher in Tunisia, told reporters that the Tunisian government has done a lot to train homegrown Chinese language teachers including establishing special qualification accreditations.
Egypt home to largest number of Chinese language students
One of the first African countries to introduce Chinese language study to school curricula, Egypt now has the largest number of students learning Chinese. The Ministry of Education has also acknowledged that Chinese is the second most popular second language in high schools.
According to Han Jiarui, who used to teach in Egypt, as many as three Egyptian universities have Chinese language departments, and one, Cairo University, has established a Confucius Institute. A further 11 universities are now preparing to set up Chinese language departments.
(People's Daily November 8, 2006)