Friday, January 27, 2006

More Required Chinese
This time in Zimbabwe. As the BBC reports, the government of Zimbabwe plans to institute offerings of Chinese classes in all the Zimbabwean universities. However, they report heavy criticism of the plan:
The Zimbabwe National Association of Student Unions criticised the government's plans.

"It seems they are trying every political gimmick to lure the Chinese into this country to bankroll their bankrupt regime," the association's president, Washington Katema, told the South African newspaper, The Star...

Investment and tourism revenues from the west have plummeted in recent years, prompting President Robert Mugabe to look increasingly to Asia to try to help his country's troubled economy.
In contrast, the BBC story last week, which I commented on then, on the private British high school instituting mandatory Chinese was much more inclined to be positive.
The move at Brighton College, in East Sussex, was said to reflect China's position as the fastest-growing economy in the world...

New head teacher Richard Cairns said he would join the first classes in September to learn the subject himself.

"One of my key tasks is to make sure pupils at Brighton College are equipped for the realities of the 21st Century," said Mr Cairns.
It seems even the teaching of Chinese is rife with politics, or at least can be viewed in that light.

Interestingly, actually learning Chinese doesn't seem to have a stigma attached to it, even as some governments try to paint China as the latest, greatest enemy. I remember reading accounts from the WWII era of people who hid the fact that they knew how to speak German because of the scare of persecution. Now, though, the US government is actively encouraging students to learn the languages of countries considered "enemies", given that Bush apparently announced a plan earlier this month to promote language-learning as a "strategic goal." I'd say this was an encouraging sign for the status of foreign languages in the US, except it strikes me as a case of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

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