Now I listen they speak Chinese


I did really regret that I put off my plan to attend the Shaolin African Kids conference held at my school on 4th August 2011. I meant it, really. The whole class was going to have History Exam at the same time these African kids came and gave a talk about their experiences. That’s why I and two of my friends canceled it away. I was really curious on these kids. I heard people say these African kids can speak Chinese as streamlined as the mainland Chinese do, something that most of the Chinese people in Medan could not afford.

Honestly speaking, I am also not the one who can afford to speak Chinese that facile. That’s true if I speak it at home with my family, but it’s not the kind of Chinese you would like to hear. It’s partially Chinese, with several Indonesian – and to a lesser extent, English – vocabulary, tucked inside. And not even half of the Chinese people in Medan speak broken Chinese; they occassionally use Hokkien dialect as either household or business language. To be more exact, broken Hokkien, as some Indonesian and English colloquial terms are used in our daily conversations as well.

Our class’ Math teacher, Mr.Sismanto, did attend the conference, and he shared his experience with us. All he did was just listening, at the same time he could not fathom what these children were talking about. And so did our school’s principal, Mr.Khoe Tjok Tjin – that name already sounds Chinese, doesn’t it? “He could only afford smiling while listening to these children sharing their stories. They speak Chinese like those in China do,” Mr.Sismanto told us. “I myself was so ashamed that I came out of the conference at the sly.”

It never took centuries like English to conquer the world as a must-have language in virtually every school in every country in this planet. Mandarin’s renown is heading towards its climax, as China’s economy has miraculously changed the world in the last decade. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 non-Chinese American families in United States begin to utilize Mandarin as their household language. Many state-owned schools throughout Indonesia had commenced utilizing Mandarin as one of the must-have foreign-language subjects, and so are some vocational high schools. My grandmother – from my paternal side, as both grandparents from my maternal side and my paternal grandfather had long passed away – always used to tell me that she was so impressed by the foreigners who could speak Chinese – more concisely, like that of Beijing accent, the most mellifluous among all the other accents used in Mainland China. Once she told me she saw a debating contest between South Korean and British university students held in Mandarin, and as a result, it was instead the British side who won it. “These South Koreans did speak coarse Chinese,” she said. “But the British replied in their melodious Beijing accent.”

Chinese language even gains more influence as more and more Chinese people migrate worldwide. According to PRC government statistics, there are at least 2 million citizens from the country moving out into the whole world every year. That’s just the data based on statistical figures, as it might be tip of an iceberg. Most of these migrants, in fact, only ascertain their own mother tongue, and possess very limited – or naught – knowledge on English. And that’s not the only thing that makes many foreigners need to master Mandarin in order to communicate well with these migrants (despite the fact that Chinese people are commonly willing to master the languages of the new countries they’ve moved in); affluence is another factor that plays a pivotal role. China currently possesses the largest amount of foreign exchange reserves in the world, worth approximately 3 trillion US$, that is 3 times that of Japan, the second largest. To a large degree, tens of thousands of Chinese companies are currently expanding their markets throughout the whole world, extending their economic influence through massive projects. They are building football stadiums, roads, dams and mines in resources-rich countries in Africa and Asia, providing more loans than World Bank to countries in need, and securing more deals to extract their natural resources. Unlike Western companies which are technology-oriented, Chinese companies are contrariwise more on manpower-oriented, implying that they would have to recruit many of their citizens to accomplish these projects. That’s why nowadays Mandarin tuition teachers prosper.

Actually, in terms of population, Chinese language is placed in the first rank – and has been for many decades. There are 2 persons speaking Chinese for every person speaking English in this planet as of the first decade of this century (that is, 1.5 billion versus 750 million). Nevertheless, more people use English than Mandarin when it comes to international use. While that’s true this happens in 21st century, I am myself not really sure on the upcoming century. Things might change beyond our expectation, and always be.

Back to the ‘African’ story. After I analyzed further on the Internet, these children originated from Malawi. They did not move to China in order to sharpen their shaolin skills or hamshackle the Chinese language; Amithofo Care Center had set up a branch office there to train these kids. Honestly, I’d forgotten the name of the shaolin master who trained these children.

Things are instantly changing nowadays, especially in the age of massive globalization, which has rendered more mobility for people around the world to migrate somewhere else. More Chinese are migrating to Africa, and vice versa. African diaspora in China is perhaps something that is unheard of, but in China itself, their presence has begun to be widely known. I have no idea about the future demography in China. But everybody must realize that more Africans will find their dream state other than United States. It’s been waning, and China has gradually replaced its position, bit by bit. The whole world is experiencing ‘Chinese effect’, right here right now.

And now you can listen them speak Chinese.

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