Mandarin courses have been taught in two faculties of the University of Havana for a year and a half, but not everyone who chooses this language has been able to enroll due to limited capacities, according to the criteria of students and professors collected by the Chinese Xinhua state press agency.
The language is taught as a compulsory second language in the Faculty of Foreign Languages, while in that of Tourism it is an optional subject.
Chabelys Lora studies French at the Faculty of Languages and has Chinese as a second language. From a linguistic point of view, it has a more basic structure than French, which facilitates learning, she said to Xinhua.
Like her classmates, Lora believes that the most difficult thing has been to be able to differentiate the tones of Mandarin, even though they have the help of Professor Xu Yi, a Chinese woman who has lived on the island for three years with her husband.
“Cuban students are very excited about learning,” Xu Yi explained, and said there were many applications to enter the course, but enrollment had to be limited to the 16 capacities of the classroom equipped for teaching the language.
Xu is a graduate of the Beijing University of Culture and Languages. There she trained as a Chinese language teacher for foreigners before pursuing a Masters in Applied Linguistics, knowledge that she now puts into practice in Havana.
“Language is a bridge, because if a person begins to learn a foreign language, they will fall in love with that country, its culture and its people, so I think the most important thing is to make Cuban students love China, making them ambassadors of the ties between the two peoples,” she emphasized.
Xu’s opinion coincides with that of student Danializ García, who is convinced of the usefulness of her studies as a future professional in the translation and interpretation of a foreign language.
“Our country’s agreements with China are many, therefore the amount of work as translators and interpreters that we have within that language is much greater than what we might have with French,” says the young woman.
Currently, China is Cuba’s second largest trading partner and the presence of official delegations, businessmen and tourists is common.
For now, it is not only martial arts, or Chinese theater, or acupuncture what Cubans want to learn from the great Chinese culture. Now the number of those interested in one of its millenary languages is also growing.