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Chinese language gains popularity among children in Cuba

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-10-13 14:37
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HAVANA - Carlos Velazquez, a typical Cuban boy from Havana, has found learning Chinese a productive way to spend his free time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learning Chinese is gaining popularity among children and adolescents on the island as cultural and historical links between the two countries continue to strengthen after 60 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

In the weeks before the pandemic, Velazquez would take Chinese classes every Saturday morning at Havana's China Town, just some blocks away from the tiny apartment where he lives with his family.

But now the 11-year-old is studying the new language at home as the Cuban capital gradually returns to normal after COVID-19 cases began to decrease in October.

Velazquez, who is very fond of videogames, said that "most interesting technology news and articles come from China." "Whenever I searched for technology, there was a huge amount of data available in Chinese," he told Xinhua. "So, I realized it was the moment to learn a new language."

He was deeply impressed with the beauty of calligraphy art and the story behind every Chinese character. Velazquez found it was really difficult in the very beginning. But now things have been going smoother for him.

In central Havana, a group of 15 primary school children began to learn Chinese through a community project developed by the House of Chinese Arts and Traditions.

Over the past few years, knowledge about the Chinese language and culture in Cuba has increased thanks to academic and cultural exchange programs, TV series and documentaries, as well as a growing number of Chinese travelers on the island.

The boy's teacher, Diana Llanes, 24, learned the language with her Chinese classmates at the School of Tourism and continued honing her skills at Havana's Confucius Institute.

"Relations between the two countries are getting closer, so that learning, at least, basics of the Chinese language is becoming more necessary for people here," she told Xinhua. "China is also an emerging market for Cuban tourism and the island's fundamental technical assistance provider."

In Cuba, the primary and secondary school programs only include English as a second language. However, a group of children and adolescents in the capital city take Chinese classes given by teachers from Havana's Confucius Institute established in 2009.

"Currently, more than 1,000 students are enrolled at the academic center," said Yorbelis Rosell, director of the institute. "Our initial focus was on adult learning, but with the course of time, we have taken actions to increase work with children and continue promoting the Chinese language and culture in Cuba."

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