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Young Namibians see more opportunities with Mandarin skills

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-04-17 08:23

Young Namibians are embracing Chinese to seize the opportunities that come with the robust bilateral ties developing between Namibia and China.

Jacobina Aumbandja, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Namibia, registered for a Chinese language course at the Confucius Institute at the university in Windhoek in February 2017.

"An interest in Chinese culture, language and customs attracted me to the course," Aumbandja says, adding that she found the course enthralling.

"Chinese grammar at the beginner level is simpler than English. But Chinese characters are the hardest part in the beginning, and writing the characters takes practice, a challenge which for a moment looked insurmountable," she says.

Although she is captivated by the culture and language, she believes that learning Chinese will offer her a breakthrough in her career.

Yang Xingang, a Chinese teacher at the institute, says that learning Chinese helps young Namibians to diversify their social and economic prospects in light of the growing bilateral business ties.

According to Aumbandja, her course taught her how to compete effectively in the business environment. The language skills help her in negotiating for bargains at Chinese shops in Windhoek, she says.

"You are most likely to get a discount if you know how to speak a bit of Mandarin," she says.

Another student Mon Shifotoka, who's a communications and media graduate, enrolled for the language course this year.

She says studying Chinese is an extension of her studies in China, and that fluency in Mandarin will increase her chances of gaining employment with international development agencies.

"The language course will also enable me to continue nurturing relations with the Chinese, embrace multiculturalism and boost my prospects," says Shifotoka.

Since it was set up in 2013 with support from the University of Namibia and the China University of Geosciences, the Confucius Institute has made rapid progress, training more than 3,000 students so far.

Zhang Fan, the director of the Confucius Institute, says that more students are showing interest in the program, with more students enrolled compared to last year's figure of 1,153 students.

"The Chinese course is open for students at the University of Namibia and all locals," Zhang says. "We have daytime and evening courses for basic Chinese. We also have a Chinese course for bankers, and will soon have a course for tour guides."

Over the years, the institute has transformed into more than just a platform to learn Chinese. It also acts as a showcase for Chinese culture and is a bridge for China-Namibia cultural exchanges. In addition to learning the Chinese language, students have the chance to get involved in cultural activities.

For now, the institute hosts Chinese proficiency competitions both for the college and secondary school levels, and organizes summer camps in China. Besides hosting a radio program about China, it also provides scholarship programs.

Speaking of the ways in which the institute has helped her besides developing her language skills, Aumbandja says: "I have also developed an appreciation for Chinese culture and history. And I have learned how to cook Chinese food and perform Chinese dances."

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