Ethiopian teachers harness power of Chinese language to bridge cultures

Ethiopian teachers harness power of Chinese language to bridge cultures

Ethiopian teachers harness power of Chinese language to bridge cultures

Ethiopian teachers harness power of Chinese language to bridge cultures

In the bustling classrooms of special boarding schools across Ethiopia’s Oromia region, local Chinese language teachers are engaged in an exciting educational journey, harnessing the power of language to bridge cultures.

Fitsum Mussa, who studied Chinese language at Dalian University in China, is one of the pioneer local Chinese language teachers playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of their students while fostering stronger cultural connections between Ethiopia and China.

Over the past two years, Mussa has taught Chinese to more than 250 students at Arsi Special Boarding School, one of nine special secondary schools in the Oromia region. Here, students voluntarily choose from Chinese, Arabic and French, in addition to English, as their preferred foreign language studies.

“I remember the innovative ways that our Chinese teachers used to boost our interaction and learning capabilities during our early days learning the language. The first steps were relatively difficult until we were eventually able to better interact and communicate with our teachers,” Mussa recalled. “Now, these school children are learning Chinese with the help of their mother tongue, Afan Oromo. This makes the teaching-learning process much easier for them, and I find it significantly constructive for their language acquisition.”

Courtesy of deepening Sino-Ethiopian ties, interest in studying the Chinese language is growing fast among Ethiopians, particularly the country’s youth.

Seyoum Kebede, head of the special schools development division at the Oromia education bureau, said the Chinese language is the most desired language among students, with over 1,230 secondary school students choosing Chinese as their preferred foreign language study.

“Our Ethiopian Chinese language teachers, who have mastered the language with the help of Chinese instructors, are tapping into their unique understanding of both Ethiopian and Chinese culture to make the teaching and learning process more effective and interesting for our students,” Kebede said.

These teachers not only possess a deep understanding of Ethiopian culture but also have insight into the nuances of the Chinese language and culture, making them effective conduits for communication and cultural exchange.

The Confucius Institute at Addis Ababa University (AAU) has been instrumental in enhancing the capacity of Ethiopian Chinese language teachers. Through a series of training sessions, the institute has equipped the teachers with the necessary skills to teach Chinese properly.

A four-day training program, starting Wednesday, is held at AAU to promote the local teachers’ capabilities in mastering the four important aspects of teaching Chinese: grammar, phonetics, vocabulary and characters, according to Gao Lili, the director of the Confucius Institute at AAU.

“We are helping local schools to improve their teaching quality while maintaining a balance between their teachers’ language proficiency and effective pedagogy,” Gao said.

A significant milestone in maintaining the balance between teachers’ language proficiency and pedagogy is the recent introduction of the first-ever local Chinese language textbook, dubbed “Hello, Chinese,” featuring Chinese-Amharic and Chinese-Afan Oromo languages.

Derartu Tesfaye, a teacher at Ambo Special Boarding School, reflects on the effectiveness of using local languages to facilitate teaching Chinese.

“Using local elements significantly made my teaching endeavor much more convenient, and it helped my students easily grasp the subject,” said Tesfaye, one of the 10 teachers participating in the training program at AAU.

Tesfaye’s assertion was also shared by Mussa as he recalled a phenomenon that highlighted the unique significance of harnessing local Ethiopian languages and culture in teaching Chinese.

“I remember when I was learning the Chinese language, it almost took me three months to learn the phonetics. To my surprise, my students were able to accomplish this task in about a month,” Mussa said.

The impact of these efforts is also evident in students’ remarkable achievements.

Gurmessa Getachew, who has been teaching Chinese to some 286 students at Ambo Special Boarding School during the past two years, proudly said that 282 of his students passed their first and second-level Chinese Proficiency Test, Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK), setting a profound acclaim to Getachew’s teaching endeavor.

With their newfound Chinese language skills, students of the special boarding schools are also opening doors to a world of opportunities.

Kebede said that learning the Chinese language “opens a window of opportunity for students to realize their dreams through abundant scholarship opportunities to pursue their education in China.”

These Ethiopian Chinese language teachers are not only shaping the linguistic abilities of their students but also forging stronger bonds between Ethiopia and China, paving the way for a brighter future of cultural understanding and collaboration.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).