Feature: Kenyan children thrill virtual audience in Chinese language
Dressed in a fitting blue suit with a blue and white bow tie around his neck, Owen Xu Kiplimo eloquently recited a Chinese poem with his mother looking on with approval.
His father was seated at a corner of their living room gesturing to the vivacious ten-year-old to continue with the spoken words.
Kiplimo's parents beamed with joy, dazzled by the sight of their son reciting a poem in the Chinese language in front of a camera at their home located in the upmarket Nairobi's Kilimani suburb.
Kiplimo is a Kenyan child recently taking part in an online Chinese language contest for non-native speakers around the world and his fluency in Mandarin continues to stun internet users who may vote for his video online.
"I love Chinese and it is not difficult to learn. My mother has been teaching my sister and me Chinese since she realized the language appealed to us. I hope to inspire other children around the world to learn Mandarin," Kiplimo said.
The uptake of Mandarin by foreigners especially Africans has grown significantly over the years.
Kenya in particular boasts of several Confucius institutes aimed at promoting the Chinese language and consequently strengthening the social-economic relationship between Nairobi and Beijing.
Born in Kenya, Kiplimo and his sister Wendy Xu Jelimo are the children of Henry Kibet, a Kenyan from Nandi County in the Rift Valley and Xu Jing, a Chinese from Jilin province of China.
Kibet is an official with Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) while Xu is a Chinese language lecturer at the University of Nairobi's Confucius Institute.
The family has been residing in Kenya ever since their children were born. The children have visited China on several occasions.
"I started teaching the children Chinese because I wanted them to experience my culture," said Xu.
Both Wendy and Owen are participating in the language competition organized by Hanban which seeks to test the proficiency of participants in both written and spoken Chinese.
The siblings sent their performance last week and are waiting for their results.
Kibet said that his children have a thirst for foreign languages and experiencing different cultures.
"Wendy knows how to play some Chinese instruments, and she has once performed in one of the local television stations. My children can also speak French on top of their local dialect. Taking part in the competition is a milestone for them," said Kibet.
Many Kenyans who have pursued Mandarin do so with the hopes that the language will open up new job opportunities.
The HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi), which is an international standardized test, is famed for helping learners gauge their proficiency in the language.
Kibet believes that studying Chinese for his children will help them edge out competition in the job market particularly now that the Chinese companies and organizations have expanded their footprints in Kenya.
"I would like to urge Kenyans and people worldwide to learn Chinese language for ease of transacting business with the Chinese who have come up strongly as an economy," said Kibet.
Leah Ombuor, a student in one of the recognized institutions of higher learning, said that through studying Mandarin, she got the opportunity to travel to China twice, in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
"I have never been on a plane until the day I got the opportunity to travel to China. Upon landing I was amazed at how clean the city of Beijing is and how hospitable the Chinese people are," said Ombuor.
She is convinced that her grasp of Chinese language will impact her life positively and broaden her career prospects.