Newsletter: Kenya’s Secretary General of Ruling Party Learns Chinese with Me

[Source]    xinhuanet.com [Time]    2018-09-10 14:54:32 
 


On August 24th, at the Jubilee Party Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, Xu Jing was teaching her student how to write Chinese characters. Rafael Tuju, 59, is Secretary General of the Jubilee Party, Kenya’s ruling party, and also Xu Jing’s student. When talking about his original intention for learning Chinese, Tuju said that the current Kenya-China relations have enjoyed rapid and comprehensive development, and exchanges between political parties of the two countries have become increasingly close. In order to better learn from China's governance experience, he wants to learn Chinese for it is an important tool to understand China's culture. Through the “matchmaking” of the Chinese Embassy in Kenya, Xu Jing, a Chinese teacher from the Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, accepted the “challenge” of teaching Tuju Chinese. The Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will be held from September 3rd to 4th. Tuju will also attend the Summit. He is raring to talk with his Chinese friends in Chinese in Beijing.

“What is your name?” “My name is Tuju.” “Are you Chinese?” “No, I am Kenyan.” “Do you like Chinese tea?” “Yes, I like it!”...

On a Friday morning, Chinese teacher Xu Jing was giving a one-on-one Chinese lesson to her Kenyan student Rafael Tuju. The student, in a well tailored suit and good etiquette, is the Secretary General of the Jubilee Party, Kenya’s ruling party.

On the same day, because he was late for 10 minutes due to his meeting with President Kenyatta, Tuju immediately said in Chinese as he entered the office: “Good morning, teacher, sorry!” He explained half-jokingly in English: “President wanted to talk more, but I told him that Xu’s class couldn't wait!”

Such friendship between teacher and student has to be traced back to this June when Tuju expressed his strong desire to learn Chinese during an event organized by the Chinese Embassy in Kenya.

Tuju, 59, said that he had visited China many times because of his work, and was impressed by the tremendous achievements China has made in reform and opening up. “China has risen from a poor and backward country with the largest population to the world’s second largest economy. This is credited to the Chinese government’s governance capacity.”

Speaking of his original intention for learning Chinese, Tuju said that the current Kenya-China relations have enjoyed rapid and comprehensive development, and the exchanges between political parties of the two countries have become increasingly close. In order to better learn from China’s governance experience, he wants to learn Chinese because it is an important tool to understand China’s culture.

With the help from the Chinese Embassy in Kenya, Xu Jing, a Chinese teacher from the Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, accepted the “challenge” to teach Tuju Chinese. “At first, I felt great pressure on the prospect that this ‘old student’ with a special status would be my student.” Xu said. "At that time, I had a lot of doubts. Would he put on an air? Would he have time to learn? What if I don’t teach him well?”

Xu Jing also remembered the first text message she sent to Tuju, introducing herself as “Xu Jing Rotich”. In a short while, Tuju curiously called to ask her which country she was from, and why she had a Kenyan surname. At this moment, the distance between them became closer.

It then came to light that Xu is married to a Kenyan. Her husband Henry Rotich is a civil servant in the Kenya Bureau of Standards. Henry had studied in China for 8 years and is able to speak fluent Chinese.


On August 24th, at the Jubilee Party Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, Xu Jing (left) and Tuju communicated with each other on course duration. Rafael Tuju, 59, is Secretary General of the Jubilee Party, Kenya’s ruling party, and also Xu Jing’s student. When talking about his original intention in learning Chinese, Tuju said that the current Kenya-China relations have enjoyed rapid and comprehensive development, and exchanges between political parties of the two countries have become increasingly close. In order to better learn from China's governance experience, he wants to learn Chinese for it is an important tool to understand China's culture. Through the “matchmaking” of the Chinese Embassy in Kenya, Xu Jing, a Chinese teacher from the Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, accepted the “arduous task” of teaching Tuju Chinese. The Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will be held from September 3rd to 4th. Tuju will also attend the Summit. He is raring to talk with his Chinese friends in Chinese in Beijing.

Henry told the journalist that as a Kenyan, he really knows the common difficulties the local people have in learning Chinese, so he occasionally gives his wife advice in her daily teaching. “Do you know? When Xu Jing encounters communication problems with Tuju in her lecture, she calls me for help!” he said in a proud tone.”

According to Xu, the languages of many tribes in Kenya, like Chinese, are tonal languages, so it is easier for Tuju, who is from the Luo tribe, to learn Pinyin, but like many locals, he has a hard time trying to pronounce the initials ‘ j’, ‘q’ and ‘x’.”

Tuju usually likes to make jokes, but his serious and positive attitude in learning Chinese has impressed Xu Jing and won her admiration.

At present, Tuju has two Chinese lessons each week, each lasting about two hours. But Tuju believed that the time is not enough to master a language. Despite his busy daily work, he has been sparing at least one hour each day to review and finish his homework since he took his first class in early July. In addition, whenever he meets a Chinese people in Nairobi, he will greet him or her in Chinese and will not miss any chance to practice his oral Chinese.

“Ms. Xu is so dedicated. I certainly can't let her down. And, now I will give interviews to Chinese media. I have to do better in front of the camera!” Tuju said humorously in an interview.

The Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will be held from September 3rd to 4th. Tuju will also attend the Summit. He is raring to talk with his Chinese friends in Chinese in Beijing. “The longer I learn Chinese, the more I like Chinese culture.” In addition to the short-term goal of passing HSK Level 1 next year, he hopes to continue learning Chinese as a lifelong objective.

Founded in 2015, the Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi is the first Confucius Institute China ever established on the African continent. In recent years, with the continuous development of economic and trade contacts as well as people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and Kenya, the Confucius Institute has witnessed the increasingly rise of “Chinese fever” in Kenya.

According to Xiao Shan, Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute, in addition to providing the general education for diplomas or degrees in Chinese language, the Confucius Institute also offers a special Chinese training class, providing on-the-job training for tens of thousands staff from Kenya’s airport, customs, immigration bureau, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UN headquarters in Nairobi. At present, the Confucius Institute is working with the Kenya Curriculum Development Committee to design a syllabus, planning to include Chinese in the Kenyan Elementary and Secondary School curriculum.

“Tuju shows great talent for learning Chinese. As a senior government official and is close to 60 years old, he is very energetic and enthusiastic for his studies, which not only inspires young Kenyans, but also plays a positive role in promoting Chinese language in Kenya,” Xu said with emotion.

When asked if Xu’s evaluation was pertinent, Tuju couldn’t conceal his smile, but he still said modestly in English: “Is it? I’m not sure!” After a few seconds, he suddenly realized that he should use the authentic Chinese expression for modesty. So he laughed and corrected himself: “Nali, nali,”, meaning “not at all”.

(Story by Jin Zheng, photos by Li Yan, Xinhua News Agency, Nairobi, September 2nd)

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