(Xinhua) -- Professor Chen Yuanmeng has taught
Kiswahili, one of the major languages in East Africa, at the
Communication University of China for over 50 years.
As one of the most senior Kiswahili
teachers in the university, Chen has seen major changes over the
years and the importance of promoting communication between
China and African countries.
Kiswahili is one of the widely spoken
languages in East Africa. It is used in countries including
Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda and Mozambique.
“Kiswahili is our golden key to
understanding Africa,” said 76-year-old Chen, “We can only begin
to understand each other when we speak the same language.”
Chen started teaching Kiswahili in
1966, six years after the major was set up in the university,
the first of its kind in China.
“We didn’t even have textbooks at the
very beginning,” Chen recalled.
“We had to use radio and newspapers as
learning materials back then,” said Chen,”It wasn’t until 1971
that the first Kiswahili-Chinese dictionary was published.”
Thirty-six-year-old Hu Bo, who
graduated in 2004, said that when he attended school in early
2000, there were only dozens of copies of the Kiswahili-Chinese
dictionary across the country. “There were 24 students in my
class,” Hu said, “Professor Chen bought a dictionary for each
one of us. The dictionary was like a treasure for us back then.”
Like many of his alumni, Hu went to
Africa after graduation. After working in several different
African countries for a few years, he built his own fertilizer
import and export business there.
“Many other graduates become
interpreters or diplomats, contributing to the friendship
between China and Africa as well,” Hu said.
During 50 years of teaching, Chen has
edited textbooks and translated several Kiswahili books into
His student Li Kunruonan has followed
in his footsteps and became a teacher at the university after
“I chose to become a teacher because I
think there are still many Chinese people who don’t know about
Africa,” said Li, “I want to help more people learn about the
Also working as a translator, Li has
been translating novels in Kiswahili into Chinese. “I wish I
could help Chinese people in Africa learn Kiswahili and about
African culture, while also helping African people learn some
Chinese and understand more about China,” said Li.
Han Mei, a graduate from the early
1990s, has been working as a reporter at the West African center
for China Radio International, telling the Chinese story to
Han is looking forward to the upcoming
Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in early September in Beijing.
She said that many African countries have a strong will to
develop and are looking forward to learning from China’s
“Wenzhou is my first home, and Africa
is like my second home,” said Chen.
“I hope more young people can join us
and contribute to the development and cooperation between China
and African countries,” Chen said.