Four students who studied Chinese Mandarin at the Confucius Institute of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill campus have been recognized for their outstanding performance in learning the East Asian language.
Shaniya Dennis, Drusilla Harris, Tashera Holder and Aliah-Rose Taitt are the recipients of the 2019 Chinese Ambassador’s Award.
Chargé d’Affaires of China to Barbados, Zou Xi, congratulated the awardees during a ceremony held at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to Barbados, recently.
Mr. Zou pointed out that language differences are a communication barrier and told the awardees that learning a new language opens windows to other cultures. He encouraged more Barbadians to learn Chinese Mandarin.
The Chinese Ambassador’s Award was established in 2016 to recognize top Chinese Mandarin students at UWI’s Confucius Institute. Mr. Zou expressed appreciation to the Ministries of Education and Foreign Affairs, and to the Confucius Institute for promoting the language on the island.
He affirmed that the embassy would continue to provide “much assistance to boost the learning of Chinese Mandarin”.
The awardees expressed gratitude to the Chinese Embassy and the Ambassador during brief presentations, which they did in both Chinese and English. Awardee Alliah Rose-Taitt was not present.
Shaniya Dennis said she attempted to teach herself Chinese at secondary school but gave up after one day. When the opportunity presented itself, she opted to study Chinese Mandarin with the Confucius Institute. Now, the UWI Computer Science major often wonders why she didn’t pursue the Chinese language full time as she enjoys it more.
“Since I started learning Chinese other career paths have opened up. With China being at the forefront of technological advancement, learning the language would be beneficial to my pursuit of a career in technological science. Furthermore, my interest in the culture has grown, I have been exposed to new foods, music, art and a way of life, all contributing to my growing aspiration to one day experience China,” Shaniya shared.
Drusilla Harris fell in love with Chinese historical dramas, culture and art when she started watching the films four years ago. After one year of the Mandarin class, she began speaking the language and credits her teacher for making the course fun and interesting.
“Now I want to go to China and experience the culture. Since I am a psychology major, I wish to be a consulting psychologist in China. I want to thank the Chinese Embassy of Barbados for this scholarship and I will work harder to learn Chinese in the future,” Drusilla promised.
After studying French and Italian at the Barbados Community College, awardee Tashera Holder was introduced to Chinese Mandarin at the UWI.
She entered the China in My Eyes poetry and essay competition and was awarded an honorary certificate. This gave her impetus to continue learning the language, along with encouragement from her teacher.
Thanking the Chinese Embassy, Tashera said: “This scholarship will allow me to continue learning the Chinese [language] and about Chinese culture…. I found it very interesting and useful for my future career. I have never been to China, however, I hope to one day go and experience true Chinese culture.”
Also speaking at the ceremony was Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, who thanked the Chinese government for the “significant contributions” it has made to the island’s education sector.
She highlighted that up to 10 scholarships to China have been given annually since 2014, and over BDS$ 9.3 million in technology has been received through ChinaAid.
Minister Bradshaw emphasized that the Confucius Institute was advantageous since Barbadians going to China on scholarships could learn Mandarin before arriving there.
“This development has enabled scholarship winners to get maximum benefit from the time spent in China as previous students reported that one year was not enough to gain mastery of the language before commencing their studies,” she said.
She further underscored that over 3,000 primary and secondary school students had received training from the Confucius Institute within the past three to four years. “This situation fits well with Government’s expectation that Barbadian children should be able to speak more than one language,” she stated.
The Education Minister said discussions to introduce the speaking of languages at primary schools had begun, and noted that a memorandum of understanding for the exchange of teachers should be signed shortly.
Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Sandra Husbands, told the awardees: “Learning new languages opens up the world. It allows for exposure to new opportunities in business and personal growth and deepens cross-cultural understanding….”
She, too, encouraged more Barbadians to learn Chinese Mandarin, one of the world’s most popular languages.
She also pledged Barbados’ commitment to further strengthening bilateral relations with China.
“Our economic cooperation is expanding and so too are our cultural, scientific and educational ties…. There are also increasing investment links and people to people contacts and these have all redounded to the benefit of our two countries,” Minister Husbands outlined.