While China expands its soft power globally, learning the language has been a major strategy.
This year’s Joint Conference of Confucius Institutes in Africa presented by the Confucius Institute at the University of Zambia aims to exchange experiences to develop partnership and encourage the development of Confucius Institutes of Africa in accordance with the school’s events schedule.
The University of Zambia’s Institute is included in a system of same associations from different parts of the world which includes 3 in Morocco. Supported by the Chinese government in collaboration with the Chinese Ministry of Education, these Confucius Institutes gets various support from the ministry such as courses in Chinese language and cultural programming. Coming from around the globe, these institutes partner with local colleges and universities partners to teach and develop learning materials and enable cultural exchange.
The expansion of Confucius Institutes throughout Africa, though, is just a partial portion of the language strategy of China. Additionally, China, aside from promoting the Chinese language study is also urging the Chinese to study the local languages that China has diplomatic relations with despite the limited native speakers.
This 2017, Beijing Foreign Studies University from China added 7 more African language program to their present curriculum. Languages are said to include Tigrigna from Ethiopia and Eritrea, Amharic from Ethiopia, Afrikaans and Zulu from Southern Africa, Somali from Somalia, Malagasy from Madagascar and Comorian from Comoros Islands.
The Dean of the School of Asian & African Studies and Beijing Foreign Studies University Sun Xiaomeng described why it has added the new programs stating that if one intermingles with Africans with pure English, French and foreign languages inflicted by the colonizers, you support domination. She stated that by studying the ethnic African languages, people fill up the gap between understanding and engagement while preserving the heritage and holding on to cultural values.
Come September, Chinese studying these languages will go to Southern Africa, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Comoros and Somalia to further develop proficiency as well as to acquire insights into the local cultures with the purpose of having these students become teachers and researchers in the new language departments.
The increasing interest in creating a relationship with Africa by means of language commends the Silk Road Economic Belt as well as the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative which was introduced by the President of China himself, Xi Jinping. The grand soft power diplomacy initiative otherwise called “One Belt, One Road” has now produced new development to Africa such as a railroad between Addis Ababa and Djibouti as well as the railway in Kenya that connects Mombasa and Nairobi.
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