It is rather surprising that despite the many benefits that abound in learning the Chinese language, many secondary schools in Nigeria still find it hard to provide adequate teaching in Mandarin. Of course, there are many reasons for this.
While it is obvious that China’s giant strides in global business and international relations have coated the Chinese language in gold, some Nigerians still believe that the introduction of the international language into the Nigerian education system will put indigenous languages in jeopardy.
For other people, encouraging the teaching of Mandarin in Nigerian schools is even an attempt at cultural colonisation. They summarise their objections in the text below;
‘Yes, it is true that Chinese is becoming a must-have language in the business world. But why should we learn the Chinese language when they don’t learn our indigenous languages?’
Just to clarify things, the need for Chinese is not a Nigerian affair. All around the world, people are embracing Mandarin for business and cultural gains. Some even go as far as touring China to learn Mandarin while some read literature and historical research articles to immerse themselves in the Chinese culture to get the international tongue. It is cynical to turn blind to all these benefits.
Also, it is worthy to note that indigenous languages don’t die just because people are learning other languages. They die when they don’t see use. Should it not be surprising, in fact, that about 21% of American universities offer the study of Yoruba language up to PhD level? Many advanced countries encourage the acquisition of multiple languages and still retain their local languages. The Chinese language is for global interactions, for use in the business world, and for people who wish to enjoy the rich, ancient Chinese culture.
However, these claims are not even true reasons why many students are not learning Chinese in Nigeria. Below we will consider the top reasons that inhibit the study of Chinese for many Nigerian students. Come with us.
Chinese Teachers are Scarce
With the first Confucius Institute founded in the year 2007 at the Nnamdi Azikwe University and the second institute established in the year 2008 at the University of Lagos, it is true to say that the Chinese language is a new entrant in Nigeria with just 13 years.
It cannot be compared with the English language which has existed and been in use in Nigeria for many decades. Considering that the acceptance and popularity of Mandarin even came later than 2008. Hence, there are not so many teachers of Mandarin available in schools.
Many schools only offer teachings in French, apart from English, because of Nigeria’s proximity to African French-speaking countries. However, the new business relationship between Nigeria and China is calling for increased study of Mandarin in schools.
The Confucius Institute is also helping to train more people in Chinese language education so that they can take roles in schools as Chinese instructors. Yearly, the Confucius institutes in Nigeria produce hundreds of Nigerian Chinese-speakers who can act as qualified Mandarin tutors.
Below is the mission statement of the Confucius Institute:
To facilitate Chinese language promotion and Chinese cultural transmission in Nigeria and to produce qualified Chinese language teachers and excellent Chinese language students.
In the coming years, more schools will likely have enough Mandarin instructors to enable more students to enjoy learning a top world language like Chinese in their formative years.
The Scare of Thousands of Characters
Yes, Mandarin instructors are scarce, but even students are scared to take on the adventure of learning the Confucius language. There have been many talks on the difficulty of learning Mandarin. Chinese even enjoys the title of 'one of the hardest languages to learn in the world'.
While it is true that learning Mandarin requires grit and mental muscles, it is not as impossible to learn as people paint it. The difficulty of Mandarin comes from its tonal nature and differences from many languages. With the wrong tone, you can mean something else different from your intent.
However, the development of a Chinese tongue becomes interesting and positively challenging when you find a good tutor. Good tutors break down the language into tiny bits and push you to take one at a time. Even for bilingual English speakers like many Nigerian students, there is a trick to learning Chinese in lesser time too. Good instructors first expose their students to ‘pinyin’ (the romanisation of the Chinese characters) so that learning the tones can be easier and accomplished in time.
We should, however, state that getting a good tutor does not mean that you will become proficient overnight or erases your need to study and practice well. Just like learning any language, the development of a Mandarin tongue takes time and constant practice. Learn a few new characters every day, create a melody with the tones to master them, use the characters and words that you have already learnt to thrill your friends, and you will be surprised how much you already know in just a short time.
Inadequate Awareness about Mandarin
How much do you know about China, its language, and culture? Shall we do a short quiz? No need? Haha! You freaked out.
Many students are not aware of the plentiful gains in China and learning Mandarin. The lack of exposure makes many students to not even consider learning Mandarin. Let’s look at some interesting facts about China, its language, and culture.
- China has the largest population in the world with over 1.4 billion people living in China. This means that China houses about 18.47% of the total world population.
- According to Wikipedia, “China is the largest economy in the World by PPP since 2014, the second-largest by nominal GDP since 2010, the world’s largest manufacturing economy since 2010, and the second-wealthiest nation in the world. Just Woah!
- China boasts one of the oldest cultures in the world and one of the world’s first civilisations.
- The Chinese language is the longest language to have been continuously used in the world.
- China is home to 7 of the top 200 universities in the world.
- According to studies, China will overtake France as the most famous Holiday spot in the world by 2030.
We know what you must be asking now. ‘Where is the nearest place to learn the Chinese language?’ Exactly!
When parents and students are aware of the great benefits of learning Mandarin, more people can be spurred to start Chinese education. If you are a secondary school student, competence in Mandarin puts you in a good position to receive a university scholarship in China that will be sponsored by the Chinese government. For students in Nigerian universities with the Confucius institutes, learning Chinese qualifies you for cultural exchange programmes to China, a post-graduate study in a Chinese university on a scholarship sponsored by the Chinese government, and an opportunity to join the buoyant Chinese work industry.
Even older adults who have businesses can learn the Chinese language to find a strong footing in the international market. No matter your category, you can never be wrong with Mandarin.
The Lack of Flexibility in Language Schools
When you have decided to study Mandarin, there is a prominent question that you must then answer: ‘Where and how do I start learning?’
There are a couple of options to consider in deciding where to begin your education in Mandarin. If you are a lover of DIYs (Do-It-Yourself), you can embark on video learning. Video learning involves watching video lessons or lectures as a replacement for physical classes. There are many free and paid videos that can be retrieved online if this is the option you have chosen.
You can, also, learn through language apps like Babbel and Duolingo. You will only need to sign-in and have an active internet connection to take classes.
Both options above are usually for learners with no strong need for the language and who can dedicate a long time consistently following the app or video lectures. Since there are no physical instructors and the video lessons may have been recorded many years ago, it can be difficult for students using these options to find answers to questions they may have while learning. It is generally slow and can be very boring.
Instead, if you live in Lagos or any state with a Confucius institute, you can also enrol for Chinese education. The problem, however, is that joining Mandarin language programmes at Confucius institutes will mean that you live close to the centres. For instance, it may be appropriate if you live in Mainland Lagos and can access the University of Lagos Confucius Institute. If you live in areas far from the university, learning at the Confucius institute can be a real handful. And if you choose to do online learning, you know how it can be too.
It is almost the same trouble with language institutes/schools. However, if you intend to enjoy flexible quality education in Mandarin, then hiring a private home tutor is your best option. With this, you can choose a convenient time, a suitable tutor, and learn right in your home.
Superprof is a knowledge-sharing platform that can help take away all the hurdles in your path to learning Mandarin. We have sufficient qualified tutors with best practices and who know how to replace students’ scare with love.
We are your best way to learn to grow a Chinese tongue. What say you?