Ethiopian teachers harness power of Chinese language to bridge cultures

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

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.

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