Namkelekile eChina

The Wits African Languages department is taking isiZulu to China. The department will host scholars from Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) who will learn isiZulu which they will then teach to students at their home institution as part of a project between the two institutions. The trained academics will then offer isiZulu at BFSU as a third language option for teaching and learning.

The project was launched early last week at the university where the South African ambassador to China was present.

The head of the strategic partnerships office at Wits, Dr Mahomed Moola, said that representatives of BFSU approached the South African embassy in Beijing which in turn approached Wits to head up the initiative.

According to Moola, a PhD scholar will be coming to Wits from China next year to complete an undergraduate course in isiZulu for non-zulu speakers. He added that these scholars will have to obtain a professional degree and teaching qualification before they can go back to China to teach isiZulu to their students.

Associate professor in African Languages, Innocentia Mhlambi, said this will be the first collaboration of its kind for Wits. “The programme has been launched through their initiative, our part is when the two institutions would have agreed on standard terms which will allow exchanges and other forms of collaboration,” she said.

Mhlambi added that BFSU has set the pace for themselves since the launch last week and according to their numbers, a dozen of students chose the course as their third language.

“Once we have the memorandum of understanding, agreed upon, then we shall have greater participation and direction the teaching and development of the course,” she said.

“We are actually greatly pleased that there are certain kinds of developments, very marked kinds of advances to see that isiZulu begins to be seen not only as a local language, but as a language that also appeals to international kinds of arenas,” Mhlambi told Wits Vuvuzela.

She said that such a collaboration will also benefit exchange staff and students from South Africa to get employment in China.


Moola said the signing of the final agreement with the institution will take place in the weeks ahead.


Third year postgraduate LLB student, Nhlanhla Mjiyako, who completed a course in African Languages in his undergraduate degree, said this is good idea because it facilitates “global cultural exchange”.

He said, “it’s a positive variant of globalisation other than the monolingual or hegemonic English establishments”, he added that it is good for Asia and Africa relations as well.