For Nyasha Silver Kusedyo, 18, a Chinese language learner, to master the language, dedication is not enough, it also takes a certain level of “madness”.
“When my teacher found out that I was struggling to learn Chinese, she actually advised me that to learn Chinese, to understand Chinese, you actually have to be a bit crazy, to understand the tones, the culture, whatever, you have to change your thinking,” he told Xinhua.
Kusedyo, who is learning Chinese at the intermediate level at Zimgro Language Consultancy in Harare, is one of many young Zimbabweans chasing their dreams of learning Chinese.
But for many students, the learning process can be daunting. Unlike local Zimbabwean languages which use the phonetic Latin alphabet, Chinese is composed of semi-phonetic pictographs and ideograms.
Prosper Marindiko, another Chinese language learner at Zimgro, believes that motivation is an important factor in determining success in the long and often tedious process of learning a second language as an adult.
“Sometimes it gets so frustrating trying to learn the language because you think I’ve mastered that word, then when you meet a Chinese (person) there, you try to say the word, they absolutely don’t understand you not,” he said.
Kusedyo, who recently graduated from high school, said his dream of becoming an entrepreneur keeps him going.
“I’m learning Chinese so that I can really gain a competitive edge in the entrepreneurial pool, basically in any kind of business, mainly connecting China and Zimbabwe,” he said.
Della Makina, a graduate in translation and interpretation, also believes that learning Chinese is a path to realizing her dreams.
“Learning Chinese, I dream that one day I will be one of the UN interpreters because Chinese is one of the UN languages, so I want to be one of the Zimbabwe interpreters” , she said.
Tawanda Zimhindo, founder of Zimgro Language Consultancy and Chinese teacher at the Confucius Institute, University of Zimbabwe, helps Chinese learners achieve their dreams.
“I have a great passion for teaching the Chinese language. I always help my students out of my personal will, and when I do it, I do it with my heart, and I feel it is my obligation as a teacher to help them,” he said.
Last year, Zimhindo was recognized as one of the top 20 Chinese teachers in the world by the Center for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC), a non-profit educational institution for international language education. Chinese affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education.
As a passionate teacher, Zimhindo knows best how to motivate his students.
“The trick is to make the lessons interesting. As a teacher, you need to understand your students.
“You have to know them well. Above all, you have to create a relationship with the students. It must be a family,” he remarked.
Zimhindo said learning Chinese has become popular among young people in Zimbabwe as they seek to be more competitive in the job market.
Chinese investments have seen a large number of Chinese nationals settle in the country, increasing the interaction between Zimbabweans and Chinese.
“The reason I’m learning Chinese is because at work we interact a lot with Chinese people, and we usually have misunderstandings just because of the language barrier,” Mandiriko said.
In Zimbabwe, China has emerged as a competitive study destination, overtaking some traditional English-speaking destinations.
Given China’s status as a manufacturing giant, the Asian country is also the preferred destination for traders and businessmen.
“Initially, what motivated me to learn Chinese was the good economic relations between Zimbabwe and China,” said Rebokile Setoboli, an economics graduate from the University of Zimbabwe.
Due to the lack of people who can speak both Chinese and local languages, there is a huge demand for those who are proficient in the Chinese language.
Chinese translators with a good command of the language can earn more than US$500 per month, a huge sum considering that civil servants such as teachers currently earn US$250 per month.
Setoboli, who is now a Chinese teacher at Zimgro, said knowing Chinese opens doors to vast job opportunities.
“Studying Chinese offers many opportunities here in Zimbabwe. And for me, one of the opportunities it gave me is that I’m teaching Chinese right now,” she said.
While learning Chinese is arguably a formidable task, technology and the internet are making learning the language less difficult, even for those who don’t have the opportunity to interact with native speakers of the language. — Xinhua