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South Africa Welcomes Chinese Language and Influence

From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

South Africa has 11 official languages. If you want to say "hello," it's "sawubona" in Zulu, and "hallo" in Afrikaans. Now, South African schoolchildren may start using "ni hao" to say "hello." The country's education ministry hopes to add Mandarin language classes in some schools.

Mandarin is the official spoken language of China. That country is a major trading power for South Africa. The two countries recently signed an agreement that identifies five areas of cooperation. They include curriculum development, mathematics and science, teacher training and research and development in basic education.

South African officials have not said how much the Mandarin language classes will cost. Troy Martens works for the Ministry of Basic Education. She says the new partnership is extremely valuable to both sides. The part of the plan that has gained the most attention is a proposal to offer Mandarin classes in schools.

Last year, a public opinion survey showed that South Africans have mixed feelings about China. It found that 46 percent of South Africans do not like the spread of Chinese ideas and customs in their country. And 60 percent of South Africans said they dislike Chinese music, movies and television.

But Ms. Martens says trade with China is more important than those feelings. She says it is extremely helpful for South African students to learn about the Mandarin language and Chinese culture. And, she said, not every school will offer the language training. South African census officials have not said how many native Chinese speakers there are in the country.