A leading university in China — Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) — has started to offer Ethiopia’s widely spoken Amharic language as a full course at degree level, in the latest effort to improve ties between the two countries.
The launching ceremony which was held in Beijing on Tuesday, was attended by Diplomatic corps from Ethiopian Embassy in China.
According to Ethiopian Embassy in Beijing, the program will be offered based on the Cooperative Agreement between Addis Ababa University and Beijing Foreign Studies University.
About 30 students applied to learn the language at Beijing Foreign Studies University, and 12 of them started the course on Monday.
Samuel Fitsumberhan, who is the head of public diplomacy at the Ethiopian embassy in Beijing, welcomed the move.
“Diplomats, businessmen and other professionals have a strong desire to learn the language,” he told BBC Amharic.
“The scholars of the university believe that learning the language will strengthen people to people relations and diplomatic ties between the two countries,” he added.
All the students are Chinese. The teachers are an Ethiopian and a Chinese, who has a master’s degree in Amharic from a university in Ethiopia.
Beijing Foreign Studies University is a prestigious university established in 1941 in China. As the first foreign language university and offering the most language programs in the China, it excels in the teaching and studying of foreign languages and foreign literature.
Amharic is an Ethio-Semitic language, which is a subgrouping within the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic languages. It is spoken as a first language by the Amharas and as a lingua franca by other populations residing in major cities and towns of Ethiopia.
The language serves as the working language of Ethiopia, and is also the working language of several of the states within the Ethiopian federal system. With 21,811,600 total speakers as of 2007, including around 4,000,000 second language speakers, Amharic is the second-most common language of Ethiopia (after Oromo) and second-most commonly spoken Semitic language in the world (after Arabic).