The Chinese greeting phrase “ni hao” — which translates into English as “hello” — is becoming widely understood by many school children in Zimbabwe as more schools introduce Chinese language classes to cater to the growing demand for the language.
At Gateway High School, a private school in Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare, Chinese as a language is becoming a popular optional choice among students.
Despite his young age, 14-year-old Matthew Chimudzi is confident that mastering the Chinese language will open countless doors of opportunities and broaden his career horizons.
“What excites me about learning the Chinese language is knowing that one day I will be able to fluently speak Mandarin and I will be able to communicate with people in China, and I may be able to go to university in China,” he told Xinhua.
Chimudzi is in the elementary Chinese language class of 20 students at Gateway School.
Challenging himself by learning Chinese might be an exciting adventure, but he admitted that learning the world’s most spoken language by the number of native speakers is not a walk in the park.
“It’s difficult but I don’t find that challenging because I just persevere in the subject,” he said.
Valerie Nyamugama, another elementary Chinese language student at Gateway, said “I chose to learn Chinese because I wanted to learn a different culture and different way to talk in a different language.”
The 14-year-old girl believes that with China’s increased global footprint, mastering the Chinese language means more advantages in the competitive job market.
“I expect to get more job opportunities because of the Chinese language, I feel like it’s gonna go forward because I feel like China is taking over most things,” she said.
Patience Rusere, a Chinese teacher at Gateway School, said there has been an increased uptake of the Chinese language since it was introduced at the school in 2018.
Rusere noted that a number of her students want to study in China when they finish high school.
“Some have been saying it would be an advantage for them to learn the language whilst they are still young and can easily and freely remember the language. When they get to go to university, perhaps they might even skip the one year of doing a language course,” said Rusere.
The fascination with Chinese culture also attracts many students to the language, the teacher said.
Rusere graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Chinese from the University of Zimbabwe Confucius Institute in 2018.
She said mastering the Chinese language has opened up career opportunities for her, although the learning process has been a challenging journey.
“But with encouragement, and persistence and keeping on trying and practicing especially when it comes to character writing, there is no trick to it rather than just practicing your characters every day, up until you understand and grasp them and they become a part of you,” she said.
Given the increased economic engagement between Zimbabwe and China which has seen more young people choosing China as the preferred study destination, the popularity of Chinese among Zimbabwean students will likely continue to grow.
While learning Chinese might seem to be a formidable task to many people, Chinese learners say all it takes to master the language is dedication, time, and a suitable learning environment.