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Cultural ties between China & Zimbabwe through language and computing


12-03-2015 00:17 BJT

Full coverage: Xi Attends Paris Climate Talks, Visits Zimbabwe, S. Africa

Zimbabwehopes to take the lead in education among African nations. And China is lending a helping hand, with computing power, science and technology, Chinese-language classes, and even a new dictionary. But the learning goes both ways. 

It is widely believed that the best way to cement relations between two nations is through cultural cooperation. And one key area for that is language.

At the Confucius Institute at the University of Zimbabwe, hundreds of Zimbabweans are learning Chinese.

This is a key element of partnership between China and the African nation.

"At the University of Zimbabwe, we are now looking at how their language can help us to facilitate the relationship between us and China," said Muchineyi Musona, Confucius Institute.

But the benefits flow both ways. Chinese volunteers here have been learning too, especially when it comes to creating a balance between work and play.

"In China, we are always in a rush, it's very competitive, but here one thing I have learned is that you should slow down and enjoy life," said Li Ningning, volunteer Chinese teacher.

"We are still in the University of Zimbabwe, just a stone's throw from the Confucius Institute, site of the high-performance Computing Centre. People call what's inside a 'supercomputer'. I am here to find out what it does," said Farai Mwakutuya, University of Zimbabwe.

It's a system that speeds up data processing exponentially. Its peak processing speed is 36 trillion processes per second, but what does that mean in real life?

"For our weather forecasting, using a normal core i-five computer, it would take them 30 hours to be able to process one day's satellite data. Using a supercomputer, we are now able to process that data in 8 minutes," said Willie Ganda, engineer, director of Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education.

That will improve agricultural output and provide early warnings for disasters like drought or flooding. It will also aid geological surveys and be applied in gene and DNA testing. The project was conceived during the China Africa Science and Technology Conference in 2011.

"Post independence, Africa has mainly been restricted to agricultural development, and most of the aid from developed countries was coming in to assist in terms of food. And at the conference, China put forward a new thrust in terms of how to aid developing countries on how to develop together. The Asian model is that if any country is to develop, it must use science and technology," Ganda said.

China's Inspur Group has built the centre, the second-largest of its kind on the continent. And the bridge-building just went a step further with the launch of the first-ever Shona-to-Chinese dictionary. Now, there will be no need to get lost in translation.

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