UN International Chinese Language Day is observed annually on April 20 and seeks to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity. It also promotes the equal use of the UN's six official languages within its organization.
To celebrate the 13th UN International Chinese Language Day in 2022, the Confucius Institute at Stellenbosch University (CISU) held two lectures and several activities at Stellenbosch High School. About 50 students, teachers, and parents attended the lectures. In addition to this school, the CISU held cultural activities at other venues, ranging from the SU campus to some of our other local schools, such as Kylemore High School and Rietenbosch Primary School, the latter of which has its own CISU Classroom.
Activities included writing the 'Fu' (福) character, making lanterns, and practicing Chinese Tai Chi and martial arts. More than 100 students and teachers participated in these activities. Since the covid pandemic in 2020, this is the first time for the CISU to hold on-site lectures and conduct cultural activities. The lectures and activities were well received and enjoyed immensely!
The first lecture was about “China's 24 Solar Terms" and was presented by our CISU lecturer, Yang Jia. He introduced this system and then explained its significance. He said that “Guyu", the sixth solar term, begins on April 20, and it was thus chosen to be the UN International Chinese Language Day.
The second lecture “The Deeper Cultural Connotations of Chinese Characters" was delivered by CISU Chinese lecturer, Mikaela Keen. Chinese characters, she said, were a rich and nuanced conveyer of Chinese traditional culture. “Ideographic characters", for example, are a combination of a specific image (shape), a sound (phonetic element), and meaning (story). The shape shows an instantly recognizable image. Therefore, Chinese characters are rich and layered in meaning. If we take the 福 ("Fú" ) and 家 ("Jiā") characters as examples, we can see how they illustrate meaning. These kinds of insights will not only help learners memorize characters, but will also allow them to appreciate the visual poetry therein. This, in turn, may cultivate the learners' love for Chinese characters and enhance their literacy and motivation.