Border guard crosses the language barrier

Publish Time: 2019-12-30 Author: WANG XIAOYU in Ngari, Tibet From: China Daily

Thubten Tsewang (left) talks with a Nepalese police officer at the Burang crossing on the China-Nepal border in the Tibet autonomous region. [Photo by Wang Xiaoyu/China Daily]

Chinese officer has become fluent in three languages to help him deal with multiple problems

A hectic scene unfolds at the Burang crossing on the China-Nepal border in the Tibet autonomous region every morning.

Traders in puffer jackets wait anxiously as a fully loaded truck approaches from the Chinese side. Taking a cue from the engine's fading roar, workers gathered on the dirt track spring to their feet to get ready to unload the vehicle. Police officers from China and Nepal circle the truck to inspect it.

At first glance, it is not easy to single out from the crowd Chinese officer Thubten Tsewang, who is 1.6 meters tall. But he soon becomes noticeable as the only one who is able to navigate a cacophony of conversations, thanks to his trilingual talents.

Thubten Tsewang, 37, has been working at the Burang Entry-Exit Border Inspection Station in Tibet's Ngari prefecture for 17 years. Tibetan is his mother tongue. He also speaks fluent Mandarin with a Tibetan lilt, and is able to converse with Nepalese officers and workers in their native language.

But he is no linguistic prodigy, nor did he learn multiple languages at a young age. Born into a herding family in Maldrogungkar county, an impoverished area about 70 kilometers east of Tibet's capital Lhasa, Thubten Tsewang finished primary school and, due to financial difficulties, never attended middle school.

"For several years, I picked up some temporary jobs in different areas to earn a livelihood," he said.

"I worked for 12 hours a day on average for a daily wage of 16 yuan when I had one job in Nyingchi city."

In 2002, he joined the border inspection team at Burang, an opportunity he jumped at.

"For me, it was either serving in Ngari as a border patrolman or heading back to my hometown and being a herdsman," he said.

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