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.
Image 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’.
Image 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
Teaching English in VN: requirements and other information
City Pass Guide
Video source: Alex Stevenson
Pros and Cons of Raising Children in Expat Environment
Anita North, a child psychologist with Ethos Asia in Ho Chi Minh City, has experience raising children internationally firsthand. Originally from Australia, she worked as a psychologist in Thailand for five years while raising her two boys. “As they grew up, they used to say they were Thai,” she said. “We’ve sent them to school in Australia now that they’re in high school, partly to give them a sense of their culture as Australians.”
Azrael Jeffrey, Psychotherapist and Educational Specialist at the International Center for Cognitive Development (ICCD) said the movement of not only parents but entire families is creating “third-culture expats”. “We see kids who have French parents, were raised in Africa, and who spent years in the Philippines,” he said, also noting that a British or Australian international school might add more cultural variation. So how does this affect the development of children?
No Cookie Cutter Answer
For North and her colleague Nessa Maguire at Ethos, it’s a difficult topic to discuss particularly because every child, and every situation, is different and demands an entirely individualised approach. While some children become more tolerant, accepting and worldly thanks to their experiences overseas, other children might lash out, or become introverted, anxious or depressed.
While the majority of their clients come from Vietnamese families, North said around 30 percent of the children they see moved here when their parents accepted a HCMC-based job. “Most of these children come from families who move quite frequently, to a new country every two or three years,” Maguire said.
“This brings difficulties, because the children aren’t able to establish a close friendship group. Then you have the parents who perhaps see this as a more long-term move. Then you have the difficulty of, ‘Okay, where’s home?’”
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“It’s a catch-22,” North agreed. “You don’t want them to be so rooted in home that they can’t fit in with the current culture. But you need them to have enough of an understanding with their home base that they can connect with their family and friends there.”
The professionals at Ethos Asian aver that most of their clients are special needs children who need support for issues like behavioral problems, attention deficit disorder and autism. For parents used to a high level of support for conditions like these in countries like the UK, the US and Australia, the change to Vietnam, which has less of a developed understanding of special needs support, can be challenging.
Jeffrey, on the other hand, does come across cases in which children need help processing a shift between cultures, especially at school. “Academics is law here,” he said simply. “Even with the international schools, a high precedence is set first and foremost on the test scores.” He said that while the most popular kid in a US high school might be the football star, popularity and social acceptance in an Asia-based school can be centred much more around intelligence and book smarts.
“I’ve had cases where an athlete who doesn’t get the best test scores will feel isolated here,” he said. In those cases, Jeffrey will encourage the student and the parents to branch out and develop social networks outside the school. “There’s not as much of an emphasis on the ‘whole student’ here,” he said.
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The School’s the Thing
All the child psychologists we talked to agreed: when it comes to making sure a child has a smooth and healthy transition to another culture, the school is the most important factor. Schools are important for any child, and doubly so for one with special needs.
“In Australia, the UK, the US, a lot of [school-provided] support is mandated by law,” North said.
“Here, because they go into a private school system, the level of support is dependent on what school they choose, and what that school allows.”
Image source: cdn-images-1.medium.com
This support might be allowing the parents to make their child a peanut butter sandwich for lunch rather than opting for the school-provided option, providing extra tutoring or even the presence of full-time care. Even basic logistics can be a deciding factor: if the child has a physical disability, does the international school have ramps and elevators? If the child has a tendency to wander off, is there security present outside the school?
If the special needs are severe enough, Jeffrey says that some international schools will consider it bad business to bring these cases on board—they would require costly resources, and other parents might choose another school if they think one is focused too much on special needs. He declined to say which schools.
“It’s all about the school’s and the family’s expectations,” he said. “There are no bad schools, just different personalities.”
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Your Transition Checklist
If your family is headed to a new country soon, the child psychologists at Ethos Asia and ICCD have provided some tips.
Prepare well in advance. Children need to feel like part of the decision-making process, or else they might feel powerless and act out. Let them take control of small things, like choosing the colour of their new room, or picking what furniture they want to bring with them overseas.
Make sure there’s closure. When you’re leaving your home base, make sure you do it the right way. Give the child time to say goodbye to their friends, and provide ways for them to keep in touch in the future.
Prepare a scrapbook. Get your child ready and excited about the new country by creating a country scrapbook. You can include pictures of the currency, information about the climate, easy phrases in the national language -- anything that will help them understand their new home before the get there.
Pay attention to the details. If your child is attached to any food item or product, it’d be a good idea to make sure it’s sold in the new country. If it’s not, try changing the product before the move. It’ll help the child get used to the change and not associate it negatively with their new home.
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Get excited! As parents, you’re the leaders here, and kids will pick up on any stress or unhappiness you might be experiencing with the move. Put on a brave face and show your kid that they should see the next country as both an adventure and a challenge.
Create a social network. Relationships with both the community and other children are important. For the first three months, sign up your kid for anything they might be interested in: pottery class, baseball, yoga, you name it. Preventing isolation is key in a new country.
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In Vietnam, French Consul Seeking To ‘Reinforce The Links’
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.
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.
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.
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.
Image 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.
Image source: dantri4.vcmedia.vn
Currently, some of that work is continuing with theInstitut 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.
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.
Image 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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Education Experts: Children in Vietnam Ask To Work Too Hard
Tran Thi Minh
East Asian culture is known to praise academic achievements, and we see no exception here in Vietnam. Many Vietnamese parents, especially in the big cities, are pressured by social expectations as well as their own, and are sending their kids to all kinds of after school classes. In addition to the overwhelming workload in school, children spend their evenings not relaxing and enjoying life, but participating in classroom activities and struggling to learn new knowledge.
The question that these parents and even teachers seem to ignore: will it make them high-functioning people? Or can overwork undermine children’s development?
Image source: plan.ie
According to Dr. Nguyen Thuy Anh, founder of the “Reading with Kids” club based in Hanoi, being forced to learn too many things at the same time can lead to a lack of motivation in children. Seeing no purpose in learning about subjects that they are not genuinely interested in, many children start developing the habit of what she calls “getting by”: rushing to finish homework without fully understanding the meaning of what they are doing.
Parents tend to assume that education can only be conducted in the classroom, and the responsibility of educating their children lies solely with the teachers. “In fact, children can learn a lot through day-to-day activities outside of school, including interactions with family members at home and going out together with friends”, she said.
Parents can encourage and motivate their kids to study simply by talking about subjects at school, and explaining to them why it is important that they learn certain things, instead of talking only about their grades. Too much pressure on perfect grades, without concern for the child’s psychological wellbeing, can even lead to disastrous consequences, such as low self-esteem, resentment, rebellion, and self-destructive behaviors.
Nguyen said “during the developmental years, a child does not really need to cram as much knowledge in their head as possible, but more importantly, they need to learn to live”. They need to learn about the world around them, which encompasses more than textbooks and school matters, and how they can fit into that world as an individual.
Making friends with the right people, learning skills such as self discipline and self-defense, and taking up hobbies can all benefit and potentially save their life in the future, as modern life is increasingly complex. All these things certainly do not come from hours of toiling over homework.
On the bright side, educators are now more aware of the problems with overwork, and starting to incorporate more elements into the school curriculum to facilitate children’s overall development.
Image source: thukyluat.vn
Dao Thi Phuong Thao, deputy head of Ban Mai Primary School, shared the school’s strategy for holistic development through a focus on five values.“We aim to cultivate these five values in our students, including personality, intelligence, capability, health, and global vision, through programs such as The Leader in Me. At school, children get to participate in a variety of fun, engaging activities rather than only learning in class,” Dao said.
On the last day of school before the Tet Holiday, students of Ban Mai Primary School gathered in the school yard to meet children’s writer Le Phuong Lien, author of a picture book about Lunar New Year, and then returned to class to write their own resolutions for the coming year. In the afternoon, they cleaned their classroom, following the traditional custom of spring cleaning before Tet. Such activities—though not explicitly academic and perhaps unusual in a school setting—are undoubtedly memorable to children and contribute to their development as a person.
Banner Image source: blog.hocmai.vn
10 Tips on How to Write an English Essay if You are a Foreign Student
City Pass Guide
An English essay is more difficult than it would seem at first. In many universities (especially foreign ones), students are asked to write an essay on the entrance exam. In this way, they check general erudition, language proficiency, and the ability to express amazing thoughts and ideas consistently and logically.
Of course, the structure of the essay in English, the style, your opinion on a particular issue, and the richness of your vocabulary are important – each of these factors will affect the final result. If you want to enroll in a foreign university but do not have enough knowledge of the foreign language, get help from a cheap essay writing service. There, you will receive an application essay sample to help you with your writing. Having a sample, you can avoid common mistakes that foreign students make in their essays.
How to Write an Essay in English: Structure
Of course, preparation plays an important role when writing an essay. The exam will be difficult, and you need practice writing – this is not an easy job. However, the first thing an applicant needs to find out is how much of the essay will need to be written: as a general rule, it is 200-300 words. After clarifying the data (if any), you can adjust the structure to the volume.
From school, everyone remembers a similar structure of the text, and it does not change when enrolling in a university:
- The first should be the title, which needs to be more suitable for the essay.
- Then, you need to write an introduction – a few sentences about what you will talk about below, what topic, why you chose it.
- Next comes the main body of the text. Write two-three paragraphs in which you cover, in fact, what you wanted to write about.
- Finally, make a conclusion. The volume is approximately equal to the introduction. Summarize the main point of what the text was written about.
In the main body, the key rule should be taken into account: each excellent paragraph should begin with the main sentence, and the rest should develop and supplement it. In this way, you can write your essay in English correctly.
Tips on How to Write an Academic English Essay
By following our recommendations, you can write a more interesting paper and get a good grade for it on the exam, no matter whether you are applying to a foreign university or writing an essay for a particular discipline:
1. Write in a structured way.
The structure provided earlier is universal, and an essay is unlikely to be highly rated if it is not followed. Therefore, it is recommended to express thoughts in this particular form in order to get a good grade.
2. Plan before writing.
An important step in writing your essay is planning in order to write your essay properly. That’s why, after you are assigned the topic or choose it yourself, you should write down thoughts and ideas that come to mind. Think about what you would like to write and how to do it, and make an effective outline in which the phrase or word will indicate a specific thought.
3. Check out many topics while preparing for the work.
An essay is more of a test of your erudition rather than how well you speak English. Therefore, it is better to study in advance to learn of the various urgent topics of the world, to increase your vocabulary, and to improve your general level of knowledge. Writing an essay in English will be easy if you approach the theme selection correctly, a topic should be interesting not only to you but to your audience as well.
4. Allocate time wisely.
Another tip is to allow yourself the time to plan, write, and review your essay. Often applicants do not have enough time for the last part. Because of this, sometimes they don’t correct the most obvious mistakes.
5. Use an appropriate style of speech when writing your paper.
You should not use various slang expressions, unrecognized neologisms, or strange word forms. The writing style should be formal or semi-formal. Another example of misuse of words: using abbreviations like “I wanna” – it’s better to write “I want to.”
6. Adhere to the specified volume of text.
Often on the exam, you want to write as much as possible, proving to the examiners that you know a lot. However, this will not help when writing an essay. If you do not invest in the amount set by the admission committee, your grade will be lowered. When checking, it will be considered that you simply do not know how to express your thoughts succinctly.
7. Make strong arguments to support your findings.
Writing an essay in English presupposes validity. When you write about a fact, conclusion, or give your thought or judgment – it would be useful to add some example that confirms it. You can cite any statistics or scientific research. It all depends on the level of your erudition.
8. Link sentences to each other.
When writing an essay, it is important that the text reads succinctly. And for this, you need to know how to correctly connect sentences with each other, which words to use, and in what cases.
9. Write interestingly using different grammatical and lexical forms.
This will allow you to write worthwhile and interesting texts that can be read with pleasure. You must show that you have a good command of written English, you know what essay structure is in English, and how to express it correctly without violating grammar rules. This will undoubtedly increase your chances of successfully passing the entrance exams.
10. Be tolerant
If your paper deals with political or religious topics, then you should express your thoughts and ideas correctly so as not to offend anyone. Be tolerant when maintaining and communicating your views. Don’t be overly emotional when writing your paper.
If you want to know how to write a good essay in English, these are the basic tips to follow. There are different types of essays in the English language, but these tips will come in handy no matter which one you must write.