In Vietnam, French Consul Seeking To ‘Reinforce The Links’

By: Jesus Lopez Gomez

When Vietnamese doctor Duong Quang Trung traveled to France to be trained in advanced medicine in the 1990s—one of the first of what would become thousands of French-trained Vietnamese doctors—he forged a strong rapport with a French doctor Alain Carpentier and was struck with a bold idea.

Why not bring Carpentier directly to Vietnam?

The partnership had already yielded tremendous results. According to French Consul General Vincent Floriani, in the past few years alone nearly 3,000 Vietnamese doctors have completed the French physician training but this reverse exchange would create a valuable new health asset in Vietnam. The two physicians partnered to created The Heart Institute in 1992, a medical organization that offers cardiac surgery services with support from France’s national health system. To date, it’s been a critical resource for over 4,300 young patients, many of them impoverished.

Video source: Emmanuel Hubert

“These sorts of initiatives are great”, Floriani said discussing the Heart Institute. The French state’s position is that there ought to be more of these types of projects. Consequently, Floriani said he sees his role, as the lead representative for France’s presence in Saigon, as one of finding and brokering new partnerships. “The job of the diplomat is to prepare the ground to make that possible”.

A Real French Education in Vietnam

Nearly six centuries have passed since France ruled Vietnam as a colonial power, but the European state remains actively involved in a wealth of initiatives in Vietnam, including education and language acquisition on top of healthcare.

From supporting local schools to cooperating with French education organizations in Ho Chi Minh City, the French government has remained an active part of Vietnam’s growth.

Today, there are 13,000 pupils who are studying in schools teaching French curriculums, from the doctoral level all the way down to preschool. These schools report to a governmental body that ensures compliance with French education standards.

There are a total of five primary schools that currently offer this type of French education. Two secondary schools, Lycee Francais International Marguerite Duras in Ho Chi Minh City and Lycee Francais Yersin, are offering pupils the chance to continue their education in an educational environment that accords with French education standards. And these schools “are about a third of what [students] would pay at other international schools,” Floriani said.

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In addition, there are a number of schools that offer a French immersion program to students studying in Nha Trang, Can Tho, Da Nang and Saigon.

Floriani said the overwhelming number of students in schools offering French education are expatriates—the French national population in Vietnam has steadily grown by between 15 and 20 percent the last few years—but “it’s something I want to improve,” he said.

In the Saigon high school, around 15 percent of the student body is Vietnamese, Floriani said. In Hanoi, he said about 40 percent of the students are part of the local population. Floriani said bringing more Vietnamese representation in to the student bodies of both would increase cultural exchange and enhance the relationship France has with an important partners.

An Unwavering Partnership

France’s continued involvement has at times put it at odds with another prominent partner: the U.S.

The relationship was chronicled in depth by Henrich Dahm, a researcher for the Institute of Asian Affairs, in his book “French and Japanese Economic Relations with Vietnam Since 1975”.

After the end of the American War in Vietnam in 1975, the U.S. and Vietnam maintained no economic relations. A trade embargo created in 1964 on all trade activities was extended until Bill Clinton took the office of U.S. president. Citing Hanoi’s help in locating military personnel that were still missing in action, he ordered the lifting of the trade embargo in 1994. Yet vestiges of the embargo remained through the current era. It was only in 2016 that former U.S. president Barack Obama lifted the ban on lethal arms sales to Vietnam.

french consul educationImage source: cdn.cnn.com

Through the freeze and subsequent thaw, a number of countries including France remained active partners with Vietnam in fostering international cooperation.

Even after the invasion of Cambodia when international partners lobbed criticism against Vietnamese leadership in 1975, Dahm writes that France remained committed to keeping the trade and diplomatic relationship active. It used its continued influence to bring an end to fighting between Cambodia factions and Vietnamese forces through an accord signed in Paris in 1989.

Long before Clinton chose to lift the U.S. trade embargo, France had been advocating for the integration of Vietnam into the global financial community. The U.S. consistently blocked France in their efforts at the International Monetary Fund, voting against measures that would bring economic relief to the region like refinancing the nation’s debt.

With Clinton’s decision to lift the trade embargo, France was able to move forward leading a plan to refinance the nation’s US$140 million debt. France led an 11-nation group that repaid about half the loan in Vietnam’s stead and won the country a loan with better terms.

According to Dahm, French aid to Vietnam has made it a top donor with aid concentrated in education, cultural enrichment, communication, water supply, sanitation, transportation, energy, economic management and human resources to name a few critical resources..

In 1993 when the doctor training program was conceived, French grant aid to Vietnam was about US$44 million, an increase of US$10 million from two years prior and nearly US$30 million from four years prior.

In return for their work, Dahm’s study found that French companies benefit from the aid, which is tied to large purchases of French goods and services. In return, the Vietnamese government has welcomed French companies seeking support for business deals in the country.

The work building connections continues today. In March, the French education ministry kicked off a five-day intensive French language course in Ho Chi Minh City for adult students. Students attending represented 12 countries in the Asia region.

The event is part of a broader celebration of formal relations between Vietnam and France. This year marks 45 years since leaders formalized diplomatic cooperation between the two nations.

Developing French Fluency

French assistance in Vietnam has included cultural exports like newspapers and films, as well as language training. In 1994, a cultural appreciation and language program aimed at young Vietnamese students began. It has since worked to develop a fluency in French sufficient to study in the University of Science and Technology in Hanoi, an institution jointly run by Vietnamese and French governments, other university-level programs taught in French or for some students the opportunity to study in France itself.

french consul educationImage source: dantri4.vcmedia.vn

Currently, some of that work is continuing with the Institut d'Échanges Culturels avec la France (“Institute of Cultural Exchanges with France”), which works with Saigon and Hanoi’s local Vietnamese population to foster French cultural awareness and train them in the language. One of the necessities for French citizenship is a minimum French language requirement. When the French Consulate is approached by Vietnamese interested in getting French citizenship or seeking to study in France but lacking the language requirement, Floriani said he directs them to the Institute.

Ripple Effects

The French state has also for years cultivated a presence in Vietnam. The partnership has yielded dividends for not only the country itself, but also neighboring nations.

In 1993, a formal partnership between France and Vietnam was created to bring working Vietnamese doctors to France to specialize in a range of disciplines including surgery, pediatrics and anesthesiology. Floriani said some of the French-trained Vietnamese doctors went on to work with Cambodian doctors to share their skills with their regional neighbor.

french consul educationImage source: med.wisc.edu

“Vietnamese have this expertise to be able to provide training,” Floriani said.

The work the French have done in Vietnam “helps … promote cooperation,” Floriani said. That’s why he sees his mission in part as increasing participation from both parties, more Vietnamese students in the French schools, greater numbers of Vietnamese students studying in France.

“Basically, this is the job of any diplomat. Their job is to reinforce the links,” Floriani said.

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5 Discipline Traps to Avoid With Your Children

By: Claire McCarthy

Mistakes even smart mothers make, and what to do instead

After 17 years of being a mom and a paediatrician, I've been able to learn a lot about discipline from my own experiences, as well as from other parents. While there are all sorts of possible blunders here are five biggies that most of us are guilty of - and ways to avoid these common mistakes... 

1. Thinking that One-Style-Fits-All

This one's not surprising: The bookstores are teeming with manuals, each touting an expert's best method. Friends and family love to tell you what worked for them and there is definitely something appealing about the simplicity of a one-approach-fits-all strategy. But some children freak out when you speak to them sharply, while others are unaffected. Some learn the first time you tell them something; others need so much repetition, you despair of their ever learning. Some listen right away; others need time to scream it out before you can talk to them. And it's not just temperament; it's age and development. 

Discipline Traps to AvoidImage source: excelsior.edu

The job of a toddler is to push limits, to do crazy stuff that you've told them time and time again not to do. The job of a tween (roughly ages 8-14, who are “between” childhood and teenage years) is to start asserting their independence from you, sometimes in obnoxious ways. And neither one is going to listen to a big lecture. 

A toddler is going to need simple, direct, quick discipline. A tween is most likely to respond to a punishment that removes her from her peers. But despite your best efforts, both the toddler and the tween are likely to keep doing the same “bad” thing for a while. Understanding where they are in life is key to picking the right approach to discipline, and preventing desperation (yours). 

2. Over-doing it

My husband does this a lot. He metes out punishments that are either more reflective of his mood than the crime or thoroughly unworkable, like saying "You have to stay in your room this afternoon" when he has errands to run and needs to bring the kids with him. The punishment should fit the crime, not your frustration level. And it needs to be something feasible, that doesn't overly affect siblings who've done nothing wrong. 

Discipline Traps to AvoidImage source: nbcnews.com

A friend taught me a great trick. If one of the kids is doing something they shouldn't - being mean to a sibling, for example - I say, "There will be consequences." (It's particularly good to use in public, because while it may strike fear into your kids, it sounds pretty benign). Over the years, it's been shortened to "Consequences!" with the appropriate firm-but-not-yelling voice, furrowed brow, and I'm-totally-serious gaze. If the misbehaving child doesn't stop, there are consequences, but I have a moment to think about them. 

Sometimes I'll ask, "What do you think your consequences should be?" It's interesting how often kids come up with a fair punishment (e.g., apologizing and letting the wronged sibling play with his favourite toy for the rest of the day). 

3. Under-doing it 

We've all been there. Little Jake is throwing sand at everybody within reach from the sandbox, and the responsible (I'm using the word loosely) grown-up is saying, distractedly, "You're going to get into trouble if you don't stop doing that." And little Jake keeps right on heaving sand because he clearly knows his mother isn't going to stop him. Sometimes these types of kids are punished, but they're not bothered by it. Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating harshness. But for a punishment to work well, I explain to parents, it needs to be something your child doesn't want to have happen again. 

Discipline Traps to AvoidImage source: meredithcorp.io

In our house, taking away favourite toys (the length of time varies with the gravity of the offense), sending the kids to their rooms (our variation on a time-out), or losing screen time (computer and/or TV) generally works. So does "No play-dates for X period of time" and, for the teenagers, "You're grounded!" 

4. Being Inconsistent 

Once you've said no to something, like "No throwing sand," you have to continue saying no. You can't give in sometimes ("Well, okay, you're having fun and nobody seems to mind getting it in their eyes"). Kids get confused and pick up quickly on the fact that they have, well, latitude.

Since you don't want to say no to everything, pick your battles and decide what's really important to you. In my case, I'm not so concerned about neatness, but I won't tolerate meanness, lying, or anything violent or dangerous. Once you've decided on your rules, set them clearly and stick to them. The other part of this is follow-through. If you take away your child's TV privileges for the day and then give in while you're making dinner because you don't want him underfoot, he'll figure out pretty soon that there's a good chance he may not get punished if he decides to break the rules. 

5. Always focusing on the negative 

When you've got a kid who has trouble with rules, it can make for a really difficult relationship when all you seem to do is reprimand. The solution is to catch your child being good. If she goes a solid 15 minutes without picking on her sister, she should get kudos. Even if it's only five minutes, try your best to notice it. You'll be surprised how effective this can be.

It's human nature to like praise, and to want to please the people we love. This can work for you in other ways, too. As you enter a store, instead of saying, "If you don't behave, I'll be really angry and won't get you a treat," try saying, "We have to get the shopping done, and I need help. If everyone is good and helps me, we'll stop for ice cream on the way home." 

Discipline Traps to AvoidImage source: nantucketbrokers.com

Think about it. Which would you rather hear? It's not a bad idea, actually, to ask yourself variations on that question often. What would you rather hear? How would this make you feel? Granted, you're a grown-up, and would probably need to be told only once not to bite. But asking yourself questions reminds you that your kids aren't just crazy beasts put on this earth to make you insane (although it feels that way sometimes) and that discipline isn't just about keeping order. Discipline is about keeping our children safe and helping them grow up to be kind, successful, happy adults. 

This article was kindly provided by our friends at SmartKids. For more informative articles on Childcare visit www.smartkidsinfo.com

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Foreign Universities are Serving a Core Vietnamese Value

By: J.K. Hobson

The prioritization of education has been a core feature of Vietnamese culture for centuries, and now the Southeast Asian country is opening its doors to foreign-owned entities providing public education for its aspiring academics.

Australia’s own Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) was established at the turn of the millenium in Ho Chi Minh City and was the first foreign-owned, public university to open in Vietnam. Professor Gael McDonald told Sinh Vien Viet Nam Newspaper last December, “Some of the key achievements in this area have been the introduction of authentic learning, reduction in examinations, a move away from textbooks to more contemporary materials, professional development for staff… with the mission to focus on delivering world class internationally recognized postgraduate degrees in Vietnam…”

foreign universitiesImage source: demo.tuoitrethudo.vn

With a staff of academics from 25 countries around the world, RMIT engages in community outreach and has an increasing student population hailing from provinces outside the urban centers of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

New University Strengthens Cultural Ties

This year, Fulbright University Vietnam will open in Ho Chi Minh City.

The original Fulbright program was launched over seven decades ago as a means of establishing closer diplomatic ties between the United States and countries around the world through the promotion of education and cultural exchange.

President Barack Obama praised the university during his visit to Hanoi in 2016 saying, “It is the first not-for-profit, independent university in Vietnam - which will bring academic freedom and scholarships to underprivileged students. Students, academics and researchers will focus on public policy research, governance, business, engineering and computer science, liberal education - everything from the poetry of Nguyen Du, the philosophy of Phan Chu Trinh to the mathematics of Ngo Bao Chau …”

foreign universitiesImage source: wellspringsaigon.edu.vn

Fulbright University will open its doors in the fall of this year, promising a new and innovative approach to higher education in Vietnam, while engaging in community outreach and offering need-based financial aid to qualifying students.

An Integral Value

At its inception, Vietnam’s educational culture was largely influenced by Chinese systems, particularly Confucianism. Confucian ideals dictated that although man is at the center of the universe, man is a social being, and finds his (or her) highest potential realized in community with others. Within this potential is the ability to be educated, and as such, education should be accessible to all. As community is important in Vietnam, education is seen as being not only a way of the advancement of the individual, but as a way of cultivating the kind of character that will help uplift his or her community.

foreign universitiesImage source: img.nordangliaeducation.com

Former leader Ho Chi Minh decided when Vietnam gained independence from France on September 2, 1945 that the government’s three biggest priorities would be “fighting against poverty, illiteracy, and invaders.” His philosophy on education was guided by the principle that “an illiterate nation is a powerless one.” In October of that year, he issued a “Call for anti-illiteracy.” The nation responded to the call by creating 75,000 literacy classes with 96,000 teachers in order to teach 2.5 million Vietnamese to read and write.

foreign universitiesImage source: plan.ie

Borrowed Traditions

Vietnam has long been known as a country and a culture that consistently keeps an eye on progress. Throughout history, the Southeast Asian country has borrowed and integrated ideas about ways of living from influential societies, from the neighboring Chinese, to the French who formerly colonized it.

The opening of foreign-owned public learning institutions in Vietnam marks a paradigm shift in the country’s policies towards education. With the world’s eye on Vietnam as an emerging economy, it is sure to continue to attract foreign interests.

Vietnam is emerging as a bona fide market for educational investment, and its consistent desire for quality education is sure to be instrumental in its rise towards becoming a middle-income country, as it cultivates the minds of global-minded scholars.

Banner Image source: education.kilroy.net


Tech’s Moment To Disrupt Education Arrives in Vietnam

By: Keely Burkey

Stephen Coyle, an IELTS instructor for the Reliable English School (RES), didn’t just see the dawn of technology in the classroom—he heard it. “When I first started teaching [in Vietnam] 14 years ago, the noise level in the classroom was incredible; people were shouting, talking, laughing. Now, during the break, it’s completely silent. Everyone is just looking at their phones.”

SSISImage source: citypassguide.com

The heavy reliance on digital devices in Vietnam has come swiftly: over 35 million people use Facebook regularly in the country, and an estimated 32.43 million will have a smartphone in 2018.

The use of technology has irreversibly changed the way we look at the world and have become social, but in HCMC, will it change the way our kids learn as well?

A Tech Emphasis

Thomas Galvez, Saigon South International School’s Technology Learning Coach, acknowledged that technology can have detrimental effects on a child’s socialisation, but averred that it it’s all about balance. “It’s not about weaning them off [of smartphones],” he said. “It’s about teaching them the appropriate times to use it, and to understand the effects.”

With separate technology coaches for the elementary, middle and high schools and an overall ICT Director in the administration department, it’s safe to say that SSIS takes the role of technology in the classroom seriously. Earlier this year, SSIS became the first Apple Distinguished School in the country, a distinction both prestigious and rather nebulous.

SSISImage source: citypassguide.com

At the moment 400 schools spread across 29 countries are Apple Distinguished Schools. To hold this coveted title, Galvez said it wasn’t so much having Apple products (although SSIS is a completely Mac-driven institution and requires all parents to purchase a personal MacBook for their child when they enter the 4th grade), but rather promoting an innovative approach to learning. Finding ways to do this is Galvez’s bread and butter.

Although he acknowledged that it’s impossible to keep up with all the technological trends, he keeps current through an active world-wide professional learning network with other technology coaches. “Twitter is a great medium for this,” he said.

Once he discovers something he thinks might make learning more efficient, or connect kids in a deeper way, he meets with teachers to discuss how the program can be integrated into their lesson. For a language class, he said that SoundCloud is often useful, which allows teachers to comment in different places on a student’s audio file. For multimedia collaborations, he might suggest Explain Everything, an interactive whiteboard app that lets students create visual presentations in the cloud, so students and the teacher can interact as it’s created.

“That’s the great thing about these cloud-based tools,” he said. “They provide asynchronous capacities that students and teachers can access to provide feedback and learn anytime, anywhere.”

The emphasis on creativity and multimedia emphasised by Mac products is widely believed to help prepare students for future careers, many of which will require teamwork, collaboration and thinking outside of the box. However, as Rob van Driesum, a parent of an SSIS child (and, full disclosure, the freelance copy-editor of #iAMHCMC) points out, “Not all kids will end up working in multimedia. They’ll need skills in Windows-based Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and so on.”

End in Itself?

The debate about technology’s role in the classroom has been raging for over a decade, since the concept of One-to-One learning was first propagated in the late 1990s. By providing students with personal learning devices, from which they could read digital textbooks and complete assignments, many claimed that the learning process could be more efficient and streamlined.

SSISImage source: citypassguide.com

Subsequent studies have suggested that digital learning isn’t the silver bullet some first believed it was, and some schools have tempered their expectations, or at least begun to view technology as a tool rather than an end in itself.

Thomas Galvez at SSIS mirrors these thoughts. “The whole focus of this job is really not technology,” he said. “Learning is always going to be at the centre of schools.”

He paused for a moment, and then continued: “A good teacher is a good teacher. And to be a good teacher, you don’t necessarily need technology. Really, it’s about relationships.”

Banner Image source: enews.ssis.edu.vn


What's the Most Popular Second Language in Vietnam?

By: Molly Headley

From being part of the Chinese kingdom and the French colonial state to its complicated past relationships with the U.S. and Russia, Vietnam has historically been a country crowded with languages. As a result, Vietnamese itself was only recognized as the country’s official tongue in 1945.

Today it is mandatory for all students in Vietnamese schools to follow their studies in Vietnamese but the recent influx of foreign business and tourism has increased the importance of learning other languages as well. The majority of students study English as their first foreign language with French being the reigning second.

The priority of Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) is for all students in Vietnamese schools to learn English as their first foreign language, according to Priscille Lasémillante, Attaché for the French language at l'Institut français du Vietnam (French Institute of Vietnam) . Then, when possible, they can learn a second foreign language. Today French is the foreign language the most taught after English, with approximately 40,000 students. 10,000 or fewer students study Japanese and a fraction study Korean, German, Russian and Chinese, Lasémillante said in an interview given in French.

second languageImage source: 4.bp.blogspot.com

From Tradition to Necessity

To understand the country’s dominant languages today, we have to go back to the 1954 Geneva Conference where Vietnam was officially divided through the middle. This rupture informed not only policies but also language. In the North, Chinese and Russian took precedence in the educational system, while in the South, French and English became the preferred languages. However, after reunification, the Southern languages and Chinese plummeted out of favour and it was Russian that connected the country to the rest of the Communist bloc.

Do Huy Thinh, from the Vietnamese TESOL Association, wrote that, “Russian became the dominant language, overshadowing the demands for all others in Vietnam’s early reunification".

When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, Vietnam found itself with a surplus of Soviet-trained professors and a sudden lack of opportunities for Russian trained students; as a result the language is barely taught in Vietnam today. In 1987, Vietnam introduced Doi Moi , the open door trade policy that brought the country onto the international stage. The resulting explosion of business, tourism and foreign investments launched a need for new languages in Vietnam and English quickly took the lead.

second languageImage source: i.imgur.com

English Arises from the Ashes

The English language was granted special authority in 1994 when the prime minister signed an order requiring government officials to learn foreign languages, with English being the primary focus. Foreign investments and influences from English-speaking countries have further solidified English as the top studied second language in Vietnam. MOET recently attempted to codify language training even more with the federal education agency’s Project 2020 initiative. Launched in 2008, the project’s mission is to advance Vietnamese students’ English to the level necessary for employment, yet as of 2018 Vietnam remains 7th in Asia in English language proficiency.

second languageImage source: marrybaby.vn

Motivation and Mobility

Today Vietnamese parents tend to push their children to study whatever language has the greatest utility.

French remains popular in large part because between 1992 and 2006, French language education in Vietnam was financed by the French government. Numerous scholarships— notably in the sectors of medicine, engineering, and law—still exist to help Vietnamese continue their studies in France, and the only Vietnamese degree recognized internationally is a French-Vietnamese diploma in engineering.

German became another contender for a second language when Goethe-Institut cultural centers were set up in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and student foreign exchanges began to develop. Japanese become a third major player through scholarship schemes intended to help Vietnamese students study at Japanese universities.

Time to Look Towards China?

English is still necessary for advancement in Vietnam and throughout the region—it is the official language of ASEAN—yet some experts warn against parents becoming too obsessed with their children becoming anglophones.

“We must not only focus on English, but also pay attention to demands of localities and grades. Besides prioritising English, we need to develop other foreign languages,” Minister of Education and Training Phung Xuan Nha said in reporting by Vietnam News. “Cities and provinces which have the necessary facilities to teach other languages should be encouraged”.

The lack of Chinese taught in Vietnamese schools may be surprising given that Mandarin Chinese is the language spoken by the most people worldwide, and it is the official language of mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore, countries in close proximity to and bearing business interests in Vietnam.

"China is the world's second largest economy,” Nguyen Thi Linh Tu, deputy head of the Chinese language faculty in the Hue University’s University of Foreign Language, said. “Learning Chinese, Vietnamese people can access a huge market in China and Chinese communities in other countries".

second languageImage source: taiwan-panorama.com

Priscille Lasémillante agrees. The Vietnamese have a super power just in front of them. China is in the process of developing a cultural cooperation with the rest of the world and perhaps Vietnam should take note, she said.

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Learning Vietnamese? Forget it

By: Rob van Driesum

Giving up on to Learning Vietnamese in Saigon

Rob, an editor, former publisher and self-professed language nerd, gave up on learning Vietnamese...

I have lived in Saigon for almost five years now and gave up on learning Vietnamese. I know the basic phrases (hello, goodbye, thank you, sorry, the numbers from one-to-10, turn left, turn right, go straight) and am adept at gestures and smiles, so usually I'm OK in daily encounters. But conversing? Forget it.

I like to think I have a head for languages. I speak four European languages fluently and get by in 'holiday' Spanish and Bahasa, along with rusty Latin and classical Greek from high-school days in Holland.

My Australian wife and I spent four years in Kuala Lumpur where I carried a little two-way dictionary in my pocket and learned a new word most days. Before we moved to Saigon, I could manage fairly well in simple sentences.

learning vietnameseImage source: vlstudies.com

Bahasa is a monotonal language with a simple structure. Vietnamese, however, is highly structured with a rich literature of which they’re justifiably proud, and it’s a tonal one – Standard Northern has six tones and Standard Southern has five. Mandarin has four plus a fifth, neutral one. Check the many meanings of the Vietnamese word "nam" depending on the tone: five, south, man, year... How do you get your head around that if you haven't grown up in a tonal environment?

Incomprehension in Vietnamese

I enrolled in two Vietnamese-language courses. I bailed out of the first after one session (amateurs) and finished the second, but wasn’t much the wiser except that finally I could read the diacritical marks. You can learn a familiar-looking alphabet within a day if you put your mind to it. I can still drone out the Greek alphabet I learned decades ago, Russian less so but I can make sense of the signs.

But whenever I tried to utter a full Vietnamese sentence in my best intonation, I was met with incomprehension. Or received an answer in Saigon slang I couldn’t make sense of. And don’t get me started on the differences between South, Central and North Vietnamese. My 10-year-old daughter, who speaks some Vietnamese thanks to the language classes at her international school and has little trouble with the tones (acquiring a language without an accent gets much harder after age 12 or so), meets with benign derision up in Hanoi. They think her Southern accent is ‘cute’.

learning vietnameseImage source: freepik.com

Some expats say they learn by living with Vietnamese people in shared houses, but my path was different so that wasn’t an option. Still, why haven’t I become reasonably conversant in Vietnamese after all those years, when I enjoy languages and am keen to learn?

I could try to persist, but I find it extremely difficult and there’s little incremental improvement. Nam...

Vietnamese too difficult to learn? The Latin script is messing with you.

Interestingly, an American friend who lives in Thailand, who speaks fluent Thai and wrote several best-selling travel guidebooks to Thailand, says that the Latin script is a hindrance to learning Vietnamese. He says he knows how to pronounce the Thai character, but Vietnam’s script throws him off because it’s too familiar to his original English.

My current saviour is the Vietnamese option on Google Translate, a great tool with our temporary maid who barely speaks English (her more fluent sister who has been with us for years just had a baby).

Fortunately, Vietnamese people are very tolerant with a great sense of humour. I twice had a total stranger come up to me in the street who patted me on my tummy (it’s a bit more prominent than most) saying, “You lucky man!” And that was meant as a compliment.

Gotta love this country.

Video source: HỌC TIẾNG ANH ĐƯỜNG PHỐ

Banner Image source: 123vietnamese.com


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