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African guides finish Mandarin course

By NDUMISO MLILO in Johannesburg, South Africa | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-08-22 10:17
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A total of 34 South African tour guides have received certificates for completing a six-week intensive course in Mandarin, and are expected to provide more professional services to Chinese tourists.

The tour guides were trained by the Chinese Culture and International Exchange Center through a partnership between the South African government and the Chinese embassy, and will complete the course on Monday. They learned Mandarin, Chinese culture, tradition and music during the six-week Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, or HSK, training course. HSK is a Chinese language proficiency training program for non-Chinese native speakers.

Speaking during their graduation ceremony, Fish Mahlalela, deputy minister of South Africa's Department of Tourism, said China is the country's all weather friend that helped the country during the liberation struggle, and the training will make the experiences of Chinese tourists more memorable.

"The spending power of the Chinese market was recorded at $250 billion in 2016 followed by $258 billion in 2017, almost double the tourism expenditure of the United States for both periods. The language training will enhance the experience of our Mandarin speaking visitors and make their stay in South Africa more memorable," Mahlalela said.

The South African Tourism annual report for 2017 showed that arrivals from China reached 10.3 million, making it one of South Africa's top 10 tourism source markets. China was also a leading outbound market in terms of tourism expenditure in the world.

"Coupled with South Africa's diverse offerings, having local tour guides proficient in Mandarin would act as a draw card when marketing South Africa as a preferred destination to the Chinese," Mahlalela said.

South Africa has trained 55 tour guides in Mandarin to enable them to better serve Chinese tourists. Mahlalela said they would like to send some of the tour guides who have completed HSK 1 and 2 courses to China to do level 3 after they have concluded their engagement.

Zhou Yong, minister counselor at the Chinese embassy in South Africa, said tour guides are a "bridge" between the two countries. The job done by tour guides cannot be replaced by robots, he said. Zhou said tour guides have a rich reservoir of knowledge about their work.

"A good tourist guide is like a walking encyclopedia with feelings and emotions. They play a critical role in uniting visitors with our varied culture," he said.

Nonhlanhla Ngwane, one of the trainees from KwaZulu-Natal Province, said the Mandarin training would help her communicate better with Chinese tourists.

Mandaha Maemu, a tour guide from Limpopo Province, said there have been communication barriers between some tour guides and Chinese travelers before. The training would enable her to perform her work better. Maemu said she would like to visit China one day, she said.

The writer is a freelance writer for China Daily.

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