How Confucius Institutes enhance Nigeria-China relations — Director

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By Busayo Onijala

Prof. Zhao Hongling, the Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute in the University of Lagos, says the institute plays the role of a bridge in relations between Nigeria and China.

Hongling made this known while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the 2023 United Nations Chinese Language Day observed annually on April 20.

NAN reports that the UN celebrates language days to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity, and also to promote the equal use of all six official languages throughout the organisation.

Chinese was established as an official language of the UN in 1946 alongside English, French, Russian and Spanish while Arabic was included in 1973.

NAN also reports that Confucius Institutes are funded and run by the Chinese International Education Foundation, a government-organised non-governmental organisation under the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China.

The objective of this is to promote the study and appreciation of Chinese culture, arts and heritage globally.

Hongling told NAN that the language was taught to help people in other parts of the world understand Chinese values and cultural differences.

This, he said, would help prevent culture shocks.

“There are two Confucius Institutes in Nigeria. The one here in the University of Lagos was established over 13 years ago while the other is in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Anambra.

“China is a country that has a history of more than 5,000 years. We have a long tradition of being friendly to everyone, both inside and outside the country.

“We want to share this value with everyone not only in Nigeria, but also all over the world.

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“In communicating with Nigerians, we want both of us to understand each other and learn from each other,” he said.

According to Hongling, to many people, Chinese language is difficult, but once learners develop an interest, they will find that it is interesting and fun to learn.

He said that many Nigerians spoke Chinese even better than native speakers, noting that  Nigerians had great ability to learn new languages.

“Over the years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of registrations for Chinese classes.

“Our students at the institute are good and quick at learning. It makes our efforts worth it because we have come here especially for the youths,”

According to him, Nigeria is rich in resources, while China is good at building infrastructure, thus the presence of many Chinese enterprises in the country.

He also said that having an understanding of Chinese language could boost the employment chances of youths.

“Many Nigerian graduates who speak Chinese can easily find jobs with Chinese companies because they’re trying to localise and in need of people who can speak the language,” Hongling said.

Also speaking with NAN, Chidiogo Laoshi, a Chinese Language Instructor at the institute, described the language as something “different and unique.”

According to her, learning the language can be fun with the right amount of zeal in students.

“I love Chinese and I don’t get tired of teaching it.

“As a Nigerian, I’m not a native speaker but I can easily give from the experience I had while studying to be a proficient speaker.

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“I tell my students that the interest is all that matters and even if the characters seem difficult at the start, giving up is not an option,” she said. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

Edited by Oluwole Sogunle

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