Ugandans Learn Chinese Language


Debbie  introduces herself with her Chinese name “De Bi,” although she just began to learn the language several weeks ago. Although she is only a 22 year-old Ugandan from a small town Makindye, she knows well  Meng Jiangnu’s “Bitter Weeping,” a romance story set at the Great Wall in Qin Dynasty.

     “I really love Chinese. I hope I can go to China someday and communicate with them in Chinese,” she said.

       Debbie is one of the students in the Chinese language learning class of the Makerere University Business School. She values the opportunity to learn the language, though this is her last year in school.

       Established in 1922, Makerere University is one of the oldest and most prestigious Universities in Africa. In  April May of this year,  the Business School of Makerere  University started a new program to teach Chinese language to business students. It has set up a small class as an example group with twelve to fifteen students.




 Ruth Taoli, who is the only Chinese teacher at the program, said that Chinese has become a required course for the business students since the program began, and that their learning programs are attuned to their specific areas of study. For example, students who are majoring in traveling business need to learn Chinese for travel and  students who are majoring in accounting need to learn Chinese accounting terms.

       Talking about the reasons of learning Chinese, Award Mustafa, the monitor of the studying group, made a practical point.

“Learning Chinese is for international and survival,” he explained. “Many Chinese come and establish Chinese businesses in Uganda now. Communication with Chinese is much more important [now] than at any time.”

  And learning Chinese is not only for Ugandans going abroad. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, in 2006 there were about 2000 overseas Chinese in Uganda. More than 95% of Chinese are living in the capital Kampala. Furthermore, over 20 Chinese companies have been set up during the country and most of the Chinese companies are doing trading and construction.

    “There are so many Chinese coming to many countries and even in Uganda, Chinese people are coming every day,” said Kagibwe Moses, another student in the class.

      At present, the Business School doesn not have any Chinese books for reading and there is only one teacher here for teaching Chinese. If students want any Chinese reading materials or a Chinese dictionary, they need to go to the bookstore and order an imported book, which is  high in price and hard for a student to buy.

Ruth Taoli, the Chinese teacher, said that the school would employ two more teachers for the Chinese class since so many students want to and need to learn Chinese.

“We hope to help the students to find a job in Chinese business because many Chinese companies just came to Africa,” she said.

In addition to learning Chinese at a public university, there is also Kampala Language Centre, a school for local people established last May. French, German, English, Chinese and other languages are taught in the centre, and it has class for 6-12 year old children, adults, and student holiday classes.

      Anyango Topister, the assistant administrator of the Kampala Language Centre, said that most of the people studying in the centre were businessmen and working class.

“Unfortunately, we do not have any students learning Chinese up to now, because the price of the courses is high,” she said.

      According to the centre, a public class for one person to learn Chinese costs 3, 7500 Uganda Shilling (about 22.6US) per hour.  Individual class will be more expensive.

Eberukn Francis is a senior student in Kyambogo University, which focuses on technical skills but does not provide any Chinese learning class. But he was determined to learn. In order to pursue Chinese study, he used to search the Chinese materials in internet and print them out.

       “I want to be an administrator in the future so I need to learn Chinese,” he said. “The most important thing is I love their country and their language.”

Posted on Friday, May 16th, 2008 at 4:00 pm and is filed under Stories from Uganda. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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