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South African officials learning Mandarin to expand opportunities

By Zhang Jiexian (People's Daily Online)    15:34, September 08, 2016
South African officials learning Mandarin to expand opportunities
The launching ceremony of the Chinese Language and Culture Training Program for the South African Department of Basic Education in Pretoria on Sept. 6, 2016. (Picture: People’s Daily Online / Zhang Jiexian)

With more than 200 agreements worth $50.8 billion signed between Africa and China, Chinese language skills are undoubtedly a much sought-after skill among South Africans. South Africa's Department of Basic Education (DBE) launched a Mandarin course for its 20 officials on Sept. 6, which will offer instruction in Chinese language and culture for 60 hours over the course of 20 weeks.

Six South African departments have rolled out Mandarin courses so far, including the Departments of International Relations and Cooperation, Trade and Investment, Science and Technology, Tourism and Basic Education and the South African Police Force.

"This course will not be easy, especially when you already have a lot to do in the workplace, but I assure you this will be a rewarding experience and will make your efforts worthwhile," said Li Song, Charge d'Affaires at the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, during the launching ceremony for the training program.

As Li told the officials, command of the Chinese language will be good for more than just a hobby or a pastime.

"There will be a great deal of opportunities to put your Chinese language skills into productive use," he promised.

The South African government officially added Chinese as a second foreign language in the National Education Curriculum in March 2015. Pilot programs have been implemented in 13 primary and secondary schools across Gauteng province. Textbooks and multimedia materials have been donated to these schools. By the end of 2016, the number of pilot schools is expected to rise to around 20.

The minister of DBE, Angie Motshekga, said she wants African children to be as competitive as Chinese in global society.

"Education is about what you think about yourself, what you think about the world that inspires you to do things differently," Motshekga said. "And it is through language that you learn quite a number of things."

Motshekga has led delegations to China twice in the past three years to promote educational exchange and cooperation between the two countries.

According to Li, China will work closely with the department to find the best Chinese experts to team up with their South African counterparts. Together, experts from both countries will compile textbooks for courses such as Chinese language, science and technology, mathematics and history. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor: Zhang Tianrui,Bianji)

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