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Celebrating multilingualism and Chinese cultural diversity

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-19 21:59
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Ahead of the International Chinese Language Day which falls on April 20, guests gathered at the United Nations Office in Kenya's capital Nairobi to celebrate Chinese language and culture as well as interact with the language through music on Friday.

The guests were treated to fantastic performances of the Traditional Instruments Orchestra of Nanjing University, from Jiangsu province, China, including musical notes and songs with thousands of years of history.

The guests also got an opportunity to experience calligraphy, movable-type printing and Chinese knots among other activities, set up by the Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi.

Zainab Bangura, the director general of the United Nations Office at Nairobi, said one-fifth of the world population, around 1.4 billion people, speak Chinese as their first language, ranking it number one in the world. Chinese is also an official language of the UN.

She said Chinese Language Day is an opportunity to explore Chinese literature, calligraphy and other aspects of the language.

"I encourage each and every one of you to celebrate the beauty and power of multilingualism, not just today but every day," Bangura said.

"It is said that when you learn a language you avoid a war. By learning a language, we create bridges and tear down walls."

She said by celebrating Chinese Language Day, the UN recognizes the rich linguistic heritage and the importance of Chinese as a global language.

Zhou Pingjian, Chinese ambassador to Kenya, said since 2010 the annual Chinese Language Day celebrations has not only promoted the important role of Chinese language but has also opened a window for people to learn about the Chinese culture.

"Through the Chinese language, we can better understand China and the Chinese people," he said.

Thanks to the deepening relationship between China and Africa, the Chinese language is gaining a lot of popularity across Africa, because it not only increases the employability chances for students but also puts them at an advantage to pursue higher education in China.

Indeed, China has emerged as a top destination for Anglophone African students who are going abroad to pursue higher education.

Ma Xin, the executive deputy governor of China's eastern coastal Jiangsu province, said Africa is the second largest source of foreign students in the province.

"Jiangsu will continue to use Chinese language as medium to deepen cultural exchanges, promote people-to-people understanding and contribute to the building of community of shared future," he said.

Maureen Ooko, a lecturer at the Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi, said learning Chinese language gave her an opportunity to further her studies in China through a scholarship via the Confucius Institute.

It also made her marketable, giving her more opportunities, while also complementing her first degree of Bachelors in Education.

"I encourage young people to study Chinese language because there are many opportunities in the fields of education, legal, medical, engineering and communications among others," she said.

"When you learn a foreign language, it gives you another add, instead of just having your degree or your basic education, because for you to communicate in the job market you need a language so it will be a plus for you.''

Ooko said learning a foreign language gives one an opportunity to not only focus nationally but internationally in terms of job opportunities.

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