Chinese Embassy & Confucius Institute Commemorate International Chinese Language Day

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By Foday Moriba Conteh

The Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone in collaboration with the Confucius Institute of Fourah Bay College of the University of Sierra Leone (USL) on Wednesday 20th April, 2022 commemorated International Chinese Language Day on the theme: “Together for a better future.” The ceremony which also marked the 13th United Nations Chinese Language Day, which has been celebrated annually on April 20 since 2010 was held at the Confucius Institute of Fourah Bay College of the University of Sierra Leone (USL) Campus in Freetown.

The event was graced by some 150 students of USL and the local Chinese community including some dignitaries which includes the Minister of Tourism and Culture Memunatu Pratt, Deputy Minister of Technical and Higher Education Sarjoh Aziz-Kamara, Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs Lusine Kallon, Member of Parliament Hindolo Gevao, Vice Chancellor and Principal of USL Foday Sahr.

In his statement, The Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, His Excellency Hu Zhangliang expressed deep appreciation to the Sierra Leonean government and people under the leadership of H.E. President Julius Maada Bio for attaching great importance to China-Sierra Leone relations and promoting mutual understanding between the two peoples through increased cultural exchanges.

He further expressed his heartfelt thanks to all the staff of the Confucius Institute of the University of Sierra Leone for their commendable and hard efforts in helping the interested Sierra Leonean friends study and learn the Chinese culture and language.

Ambassador Hu pointed out that, as the largest mother tongue used in the world, the Chinese language is an important symbol of the Chinese civilization and an important carrier of the Chinese culture. With a good command of the Chinese language, one would find it easier not only to appreciate China’s profound history, current development and promising future, but also to do business and conduct all other kinds of exchanges with the Chinese people.

Ambassador Hu said that China will work closely with African countries especially Sierra Leone to further strengthen the cultural and people-to-people exchanges under the framework of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the Belt and Road Initiative. Ambassador Hu also interacted with the students on topics such as the features of the Chinese language and characters, the essence of the Chinese culture (such as the concepts of “unity of man and nature”, “seeking harmony in differences” and “constantly striving to be strong and self-reliant”), the meaning of the country’s name, and the reason why the giant panda is regarded as the national treasure of China etc.

He maintained that the Chinese language is the largest mother tongue used in the world and that it is spoken by over 1.6 billion people in the world. So far, more than 180 countries and regions in the world have introduced Chinese language learning into their societies, and over 70 countries have incorporated Chinese learning and teaching into their national education systems, adding that more than 20 million people out of China are learning Chinese, and the cumulative number of Chinese learners and users abroad is close to 200 million.

“The Confucius Institutes, Confucius Classrooms and other Chinese language education institutions have done a lot through their voluntary hard work to provide support to people around the world in learning Chinese and understanding China. Today’s event is not only a program for popularizing the Chinese language, but also an important occasion for appreciating the Chinese culture” he disclosed.

The Ambassador pointed out that China and Sierra Leone enjoy time-honored friendship, stating that last year marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries. In the past five decades, education and cultural exchange has been continuously enhanced. For example, under various government scholarships programs, the Chinese side has sponsored more than 1000 Sierra Leonean students to study in China and invited more than 5100 Sierra Leonean friends from all walks of life to China for short-term training courses or exchanges.

On her part, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Dr. Memunatu Pratt thanked China for its long-term and strong support to Sierra Leone and hoped that Sierra Leone-China friendly cooperation would be further strengthened through cultural exchanges.

She said that UNESCO first created Chinese Language Day in 2010 to celebrate as one of the six official languages of the United Nations and the day also celebrates Cangjie who invented Chinese characters about 5,000 years ago, stating that every nation’s unique force of cohesion and unity is its language and invariably this day seek to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity, as well as to promote equal use of all six official working languages through the organization and in the long run throughout the Globe.

The Minister continued that cultural heritage exhibiting themselves through the principal conveyor- language could set the solid platform for the development of sustainable cross- cultural engagement and promotions of which she noted that evidently, Sierra Leone’s cultural and Chinese culture represent significant assets for both countries that can be exploited in a responsible and sustainable manner as a platform for cross cultural engagement, interpretation that would facilitate employment and a revenue generating resource, particularly through protection, safeguarding and the development of cultural and heritage tourism of both countries, with a focus on understanding the cultures of both nations with language as the main corridor of relations and engagements.

Other dignitaries presents including the Deputy Minister of Technical and Higher Education, Sarjoh Aziz-Kamara, the Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs Lusine Kallon, Member of Parliament Hindolo Gevao, the Vice Chancellor and Principal of USL Foday Sahr etc. also made statement at the ceremony.

The event was highlighted by the Chinese Kung-Fu show, the lion dance and the interactive games. The students also experienced the Chinese culture by enjoying the tea ceremony, paper-cutting and calligraphy etc.

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