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Kenyan official takes up Chinese language
with gusto as cross-cultural linkages deepen

By Jin Zheng, Christine Lagat NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Raphael Tuju carries himself with elegance and his imposing persona, eloquence and intellect has earned him one of the most coveted seats in Kenya’s body politic.

The Secretary General of the ruling Jubilee Party whose headquarters is located in downtown Nairobi, has an expansive office that is tastefully furnished and has interior decor that is eye-catching to visitors.

An ever busy senior Jubilee party official and minister without portfolio, Tuju is taking time to learn new phrase in mandarin with a Chinese tutor.

“Mandarin is spoken by more than 1.3 billion people in the world and I think it is a very important language to me as we build our relationship with China,” Tuju told Xinhua.

The middle-aged father of three and a former television producer became an elected representative in 2002 and has since served in different Kenyan administrations as a minister for tourism, information and foreign affairs.

Prior to enrolling for a Chinese language course in the early days of July this year, Tuju had made frequent official visits to China in his capacity as a cabinet minister and senior official of the ruling party.


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  NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Xu Jing teaching Raphael Tuju in Nairobi. Xu Jing, who teaches at the University of Nairobi’s Confucius Institute, is the Chinese teacher of Raphael Tuju, the Secretary General of the ruling Jubilee Party of Kenya. Xu’s steely guidance is expected to boost Tuju’s proficiency in mandarin as he occupies a vantage position to deepen China-Kenya economic, political and cultural ties. XINHUA PHOTO: LI YAN

Securing an accomplished Chinese tutor to guide him through the basics of spoken and written mandarin was an honor to a man who has developed a strong attachment to the culture, political and economic system of the Asian giant.

“Well, I am a social scientist and it is very important to break the barriers in communication by learning other people’s languages. The Chinese is one of the most ancient civilizations and it is a pity we have not prioritized the language and am impressing my children to learn it,” said Tuju. 

He had woken up at dawn last Friday to spend an hour on a homework given earlier by the Chinese tutor, Xu Jing, who teaches at the University of Nairobi’s Confucius Institute.

“Have you done your homework?” Xu asked Tuju. “Yes, I did some but was very busy last week because of the upcoming trip to China,” he responded and later pronounced Chinese numbers with ease.

Tuju accompanies President Uhuru Kenyatta during his trip to China to attend the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit held in Beijing on Sept. 3-4.

“When I go to China in the next few days, I would like to learn more Chinese,” said Tuju adding that he is determined to overcome initial setbacks and improve his proficiency in spoken mandarin.

As a senior official from the ruling Jubilee party that has forged a working relationship with the Communist Party of China (CPC), Tuju is convinced that fluency in mandarin is key to promote Sino-Kenya ties in all spheres.

In fact, he has been spending a two-hour session with the Chinese tutor on Tuesdays and Fridays since July 3rd to learn characters, numbers and pronunciation of key words like greetings.

“What is most difficult for me besides characters is that I do not have many Chinese friends to talk to. Writing is also difficult but I want to keep on pressing,” said Tuju.

“Luckily, I have a very good teacher who is also tough, she gives me a lot of homework and if I do not do it, am in big trouble,” Tuju told Xinhua with a light touch adding that his regular meetings with CPC officials has triggered a desire to learn the Chinese language and communicate effectively with them.

Despite being a senior cabinet member who is busy with domestic political affairs, Tuju still creates time to attend Chinese language lessons either at home or at the office.

He expressed confidence that he would be able to master the spoken Chinese language within one year.

Tuju’s enthusiasm to improve his proficiency in mandarin while defying age and hectic schedule has impressed Xu Jing who revealed he is now able to introduce himself in fluent Chinese.

“He is really interested in learning the Chinese language. He is very busy but trying his best to understand the language,” said Xu.

“One day he was sick and sent a message requesting to rest but he later called me to teach him at his home,” She added.

Xu’s steely guidance is expected to boost Tuju’s proficiency in mandarin as he occupies a vantage position to deepen China-Kenya economic, political and cultural ties.

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