Meeting his master
In 2012, Bakhoum enrolled in Chinese courses at Gaston Berger University in Saint-louis, Senegal. There, he met Professor Wu Zhaoqi in an encounter that would change his life. Bakhoum still keeps close ties with Wu, a Chinese language teacher whom he now considers his “master.”
“He is a remarkably versatile teacher. He practices taijiquan, plays the pipa and mastered Chinese calligraphy,” he recalled. From his mentor, Bakhoum has learned simplicity, modesty and a conviction that anyone can learn the Chinese language, if they put their heart into it.
“Chinese is a language for audacious people. It might seem difficult for beginners, but the more you advance in learning, the easier it becomes,” he said.
Indeed, the Senegalese teacher has found that Chinese and local languages and culture in Senegal have more in common than first meets the eye, such as a base-10 counting system, a focus on the male head of the family, and the importance of traditions.
Bakhoum looks back on his linguistic journey in a way that summarizes well his optimistic and motivating nature: “Determination is a powerful thing... If I was able to reach such a high level [of Mandarin], it means my students can too!”