(Xinhua) -- “I finally became a real man!” Nigerian
Anthony Ekwensi posted on his WeChat Moments, referring to the
well-known poem by Mao Zedong carved on a stone tablet at the
highest point of Badaling Great Wall near Beijing.
On July 1, Ekwensi, 21, landed in
Beijing and became the first competitor to register for the 17th
Chinese Bridge, a Chinese language competition for foreign
college students hosted by the Confucius Institute.
Over 150 contestants from more than
100 countries, the best Chinese speaking students in their own
countries, took part in the contest combining language, culture
and fun, which has become popular around the world.
“Hard work pays off,” he posted on
WeChat, quoting another Chinese saying, on making it to the
final 15 and top three in Africa.
On his journey from outsider to one of
the best non-native Chinese speakers, Ekwensi’s strategy has
been simple: “Constantly practising, listening, reading, writing
Everywhere he goes, he carries a
little notebook with him, where he jots down any new words he
comes across. He goes through the list diligently at the end of
each day. Every morning he reads aloud in Chinese for about two
hours because “the brain absorbs new information more
efficiently in the morning”.
Ekwensi became interested in learning
Chinese because of Kung Fu. “I enjoyed watching Kung Fu movies,”
he said. “Also, I wanted to know how people read and understand
His first post on WeChat was “Learning
Chinese brings me the greatest fun.”
His diligence and concern for others
impressed Xu Wei, his Chinese teacher at Nnamdi Azikiwe
University in southeastern Nigeria, where the country’s first
Confucius Institute is located. Xu said when Ekwensi discovered
that snakes appeared on campus because the grass was overgrown,
he quietly mowed the lawn after school to eliminate the
Last year, Xu recommended him to a
Chinese company as an intern translator. He worked hard and
earned a salary that was nearly three times the local average.
He used the money to pay his tuition fees and his three
brothers’ school fees.
“Learning Chinese has brought a lot of
good things to my life,” Ekwensi said. “My standard of living
has improved a lot. I have also learned other things, like
modesty and honesty.”
Mirna Mogahed from Egypt and Duncan
Acorlor from Ghana made up the rest of Africa’s top three at
this year’s contest.
Mogahed compares herself to a shy
peacock that shrank from displaying its dazzling tail. However,
her fluent Chinese and the broad knowledge that she has acquired
preparing for the Chinese Bridge has helped her “show the fan in
its full splendor and gain joy and confidence,” the 22-year-old
Once she finishes her Chinese course,
Mogahed plans to be a Chinese teacher in Egypt or an Arabic
teacher in China. The language has given her new skills for a
Acorlor, who studies international
relations, wants to be a politician or diplomat. He said
learning Chinese helps him “understand the political system of
China, which will help to develop his own country.”
“Studying Chinese gives me so many
opportunities that I don’t have any worries about getting a job
in future,” he said.
As of the end of 2017, there were 54
Confucius Institutes in 39 African countrie, as greater
China-Africa friendship and cooperation bring more opportunities
to local people.
“I am touched by the students’ passion
for learning Chinese,” Xu said. “It keeps me in Africa.”