Africa has particularly shown great interest in integrating the language among its peoples, as Chinese investments, aid and influence continue to grow within the continent.
Since 2004 the number of Confucius Institutes in Africa has jumped from zero to 48, according to the international consulting firm, Development Reimagined.
In Burundi, the Chinese Confucius Institute in the Burundi University is playing a big role in spreading the language in the East African country.
Since it was built in 2012, the institute has attracted more than 6,000 Burundians to learn Chinese and get a taste of the Chinese culture.
Many Burundian students of the Chinese language have hailed the impact that the institute has had on their lives.
Not only does the Confucius Institute teach them mandarin, but also widens their horizons as well as social and professional prospects.
Bankuwiha Etienne is one of the standout products of the institute. At just 25 years old, Etienne is a teacher of the Chinese language in Bujumbura.
Attracted by the prospects of learning the Chinese language and interacting with Chinese peoples, he registered and went through the Confucius Institutes, a decision that gives him pride to date.
Now tasked with passing on the knowledge and language, Etienne feels his journey can inspire his fellow countrymen.
“My students are very excited and they are very motivated, because they see me as a role model, an example, maybe an idol.. because when they see me teaching them Chinese, they get ideas in their minds. They say, ‘I am a Burundian like my teacher, so if I put effort like my teacher, maybe I will get to his level.’ That’s why they are very encouraged and they love learning Chinese. And I also love this job because I want to take what I have learned in China and share with my countrymates,” he told CGTN.
As preparations for the celebrations of the70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Etienne is confident the Confucius Institute spread across Africa can play an integral role in boosting China-Africa relations.
“The Confucius Institute helps local people to understand more the Chinese language and the Chinese culture. The Confucius Institute in the localities that they are help to build and blend the two nations’ peoples together and promote a friendly relationship in different domains of the two countries,” he said.
Etienne’s sentiments are echoed by the Director of the Confucius Institute, Ms Yan Ping.
“I am really happy to see that – I mean – not only are the students here interested in the Chinese language, the Chinese culture, but also their teachers. I think that will help us to promote the mutual understanding of the Chinese culture and the Burundian culture or even the African culture. For me if I walk on the streets I hear people greeting me by saying Ni Hao. The first time it really touched me!” she said.
While the impact of the Institute has been felt already, Etienne believes he still has a bigger role to play as an individual.
“I can be a bridge between Africa – my people, and the Chinese – my new people,” he said.