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People's Daily Online>>Education

In Swahili, they call it ...

By Huang Yuli (China Daily)

15:18, April 19, 2012

Shen Yuning (second from right) works with students from the Zanzibar Journalism and Mass Media College on Wednesday.

When Shen Yuning announced he was planning to compile a Swahili-Chinese dictionary, most of his friends thought he was joking.

Since that online post in December, Shen has compiled nearly 5,000 words, working at least 15 hours a day in Kenya and Tanzania with help from some Africans.

The 26-year-old plans to include 25,000 words in the dictionary by August before he heads back to university in Germany, where he studies African languages.

"There is an increasing exchange of labor between Africa and China, but many Chinese workers here can speak only Chinese, while locals only speak Swahili and poor English," said Shen, an exchange student at Kenya's Kenyatta University.

"Of the several African languages I've learned, Swahili is my best," Shen said, adding that Swahili is also the most important language in East African countries including Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, with more than 80 million speakers.

He hopes the dictionary will be helpful for Chinese workers in East Africa.

"There are free online translation tools, but they are rubbish when it comes to the translation of African language," Shen said.

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