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Chinese university offers Zulu as a course
2019/07/16

A Chinese university has established a Zulu programme aimed at enabling students in that country to learn the South African language, strengthening ties between the two countries.

The Beijing Foreign Studies University has set up a Zulu department and is now officially promoting the language as a programme offered at an undergraduate level, said Mthuli Buthelezi, one of the academics involved in the initiative.

Buthelezi said the establishment of the first Zulu-Chinese textbook and dictionary would contribute in the development of the South African language.

"The Zulu textbook is intended for the Chinese students who are learning Zulu as an additional language. The textbook can also be used by Zulu-speaking students who are learning Chinese.

"The textbook comprises sections of grammar, vocabulary and sections on texts," Buthelezi said.

Buthelezi said sections on texts in the book appear in a narrative and dialogue formats.

"The vocabulary section is a word list that shows the categorisation, the noun classes and the definition of words. The texts are written in a relatively 'simpler language' and they are a reflection of the grammar points of each unit of the textbook."

There is also a Zulu-Chinese dictionary intended to help Chinese students who are learning Zulu as an additional language.

"This dictionary can also be used by Zulu-speaking students who are learning Chinese. The dictionary is written in Zulu, English and in Mandarin.

"The Zulu words and their definitions appear with their direct Chinese translation equivalents.

"The dictionary is primarily characterised by the inclusion of modern Zulu words used in society, their language classification [verb, noun or adjective] and their meaning.

"The development of Zulu in China is a watershed moment. This development is the preservation of the language and this also strengthens diplomatic relations," Buthelezi said.

"The communication and the exchange of language are the communication and exchange of both culture and education. The exchange of language will not only spawn the expansion of Zulu, but will also foster healthy relations between China and South Africa," he said.

Over the past few years, SA has opened up to teaching other foreign languages in public and private schools.

In 2015, the department of basic education approved the teaching of Mandarin as part of the school curriculum, offering pupils the opportunity of learning it as an official school subject. This was offered in grades 4 to 12 as a second-language option.

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