Meet Lina Getachew Ayenew, Author of First Chinese-Amharic Language Guide

Lina Getachew Ayenew's inspiration for her guide, "Dalu: Introduction to Chinese for Amharic Speakers," came while teaching medical English in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province in south-east China. (FT)

The Financial Times

The Ethiopian woman helping to bring Chinese to her homeland

Beijing’s skyline wowed Lina Getachew Ayenew when she arrived in the Chinese capital five years ago, but she was surprised to find the pedestrian bridges looked just like those in her native Addis Ababa.

It turns out the building materials used in Ethiopia’s capital were imported from China — one of many signs of the country’s impact on Africa’s developing economies. Ayenew has been building bridges herself, by creating the first Amharic-Mandarin language guide.

“I had this stereotype [of China] growing up, so this level of development is a part of China I discovered after I came here,” says 29-year old Ayenew, who was raised in Ethiopia, gained undergraduate and masters degrees at Yale University in the US, and moved to China in 2011 to teach medical English. “I don’t know how many Americans know the scale at which China has developed.”

Her fellow Ethiopians do, though. Hundreds of them now live in China, either on government scholarships or because their families pay for Chinese studies. A Chinese education is more attainable than going to the US and, for many, more useful.

Chinese investment in Africa has soared, reaching $26bn as of 2013, with another $60bn pledged in late 2015. Ethiopia’s educated workforce and leather industry have attracted Chinese manufacturing and textile investment.

At a welcoming party for 70 Ethiopian students in Beijing last year, Ayenew “noticed this collective thinking we need to bring knowledge back to our country. China has so much to teach us. There was a collective admiration of China that bounced from speaker to speaker.”

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