Thank you my mother tongue

Monday - 18/02/2019 01:57
At the lunch break between two weekend sessions, Hoai - my friend at the class "Vietnamese language teaching methods for foreigners" - quickly mobilizes to teach Vietnamese language for a Japanese currently working in Hanoi. "He is busy so he takes any of his free time to study, and I have to take advantage of the lunch break to help him achieve his goal of communicating Vietnamese fluently within 3 months" - Hoai explained upon coming back to the afternoon class. The slender girl with an optimistic smile and pure voice reminds me of the years I actively taught Vietnamese language to earn my living abroad. A decade has quickly passed, I am enjoying a stable job in Vietnam, but I never forget the profound affection nurtured by my mother tongue during the difficult years overseas.

Teaching Vietnamese language: the new job of many young individuals

Nearly a decade ago, when the Vietnam-South Korea diplomatic relations began warming up, many South Korean businessmen and experts wanted to study Vietnamese language to find more investment and growth opportunities in Vietnam. As an overseas student in Seoul at that time, I was lucky to have been invited by a close friend to teach Vietnamese to South Korean experts and businessmen coming to work in Vietnam. While my American classmate teaching English for Koreans was paid 30 USDs/hour, my salary teaching Vietnamese was twice as much. The simple reason was it was difficult to find a Vietnamese language teacher in South Korea than to find an English teacher. By teaching Vietnamese regularly, I was able to overcome the arduous academic years although my fellowship was not enough to cover the basic expenses of a family with children in Seoul. Psychologically, the Vietnamese language made me more confident abroad. I deeply understood many rich South Korean businessmen had to struggle every day to conquer a market nearly twice as big as their country's population, by consistently studying Vietnamese with me. The Vietnamese language became not only beautiful and sacred in my sub-conscious but also a livelihood.

Teaching Vietnamese for foreigners becomes an attractive job for youngsters because of the stable income

Recently, teaching Vietnamese to foreigners has become a trend right in Vietnam, thanks to the massive waves of foreign investors entering the country. Hoai said: "Before I worked as accountant for a private company in Hanoi. My salary was not enough so I had to sell iced tea and grilled cuttlefish at a sidewalk shop. Some of foreigners living nearby were close clients and often engaged in conversations with me. Through their stories I knew some of them wanted to learn Vietnamese. So I tried teaching them and it gradually, unwittingly became my profession". They told each other of Hoai, and now she teaches 5 classes a week, each with 1-5 students, earning 20 million VNDs a month. She gave up her accounting job and enrolled in a professional course titled "Vietnamese language teaching methods for foreigners" at University of Social Sciences and Humanities, VNU Hanoi to gain more knowledge and skills. She has also learnt how to make and upload videos on Youtube for students to learn more easily and to promote her services.

Similar to Hoai, at my class of nearly 30 people, many younsters have been teaching Vietnamese language for foreigners and able to earn quite a livelihood. The waves of investors from many countries, especially Japan, South Korea and Taiwan into Vietnam have dramatically increased the need to study Vietnamese for many foreigners working in the country. However, supply seems to not catch up with demand. Apart from Vietnamese language classes for foreigners held by universities during office hours and contract classes by universities and big companies for foreign employees, there are only a few Vietnamese language centers in the big cities. The foreigners usually have to teach and consult each other. Normally, the tuition fee for a one teacher-one student class is around 200-300 VNDs/hour. If the student is a senior manager or teacher that can teach in Korean and Japanese the fee can reaches 500 VNDs/hour/person. This job brings the young teachers a rather stable source of income so all of them actively cultivate their knowledge and skills to better deliver their lectures. Thus, the Vietnamese language classes at USSH are always packed with students. Many launch their "start-ups" by teaching at centers to earn more experiences and make connections despite earning nominal income, and then create their own networks of tutors and attract more clients.

A Vietnamese class at Faculty of Vietnamese language and studies, USSH

The teaching of Vietnamese language for foreigners has become more and more prospective, as the number of foreign enterprises in Vietnam has been increasing. For example, even if only 10% of the nearly 180 thousand Koreans in Vietnam want to study Vietnamese it creates a large demand for language centers. Outside Vietnam, the overseas Vietnamese communities in Europe, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have also founded a potentially large market for professional Vietnamese language teachers for foreigners. For example, since September 2018, Taiwan has maintained hybrid children have to study at least 1 hour of mother tongue at school, dramatically increasing the demand for Vietnamese teachers as there nearly 90 thousand hybrid Vietnamese children there. Vietnam's status has also increased in the region and the world, making Vietnamese studies more and more prospective and attracting Vietnamese learners from everywhere.

The number 1 Vietnamese language hub in the world

With regard to the most traditional Vietnamese language center in Vietnam, it has to be Faculty of Vietnamese language and studies (FVLS), USSH. In 2018, the Faculty just commemorated its 50th anniversary and 62 years of teaching Vietnamese language for foreigners. According to Assoc.Prof.Dr Nguyen Thien Nam (FVLS's Dean), during more than a century of teaching and studying Vietnamese language as a foreign language, the Faculty has trained over 10,000 foreigners at its headquarters and from many Vietnamese studies centers and universities in the world. Many among them are senior diplomats and advanced interpreters, especially 15 have become Ambassadors and "chargé d'affaires" in Vietnam.

Former Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Vietnam - Mr Giles Lever visited FVSL as he approached the end of his term in Vietnam (May/2018)

Generations of professors and lecturers at the Faculty have consistently strived to bring Vietnamese to the world, helping non-Vietnamese, overseas Vietnamese, and Vietnamese hybrid children understand and appreciate Vietnam through the beauty of its language as part of the Vietnamese culture. In recent years, the Faculty has successfully compiled the Curriculum for training Vietnamese language teachers for foreigners, directly trained Vietnamese language teachers for foreigners, and provided professional consulting to the Program Increasing online Vietnamese language teaching for Vietnamese overseas, etc.

Despite having scored many important marks in teaching and studying Vietnamese language within and without Vietnam, when talked to the teachers at Faculty of Vietnamese language and studies all demonstrate a upright, personable, natural and humorous personality, perhaps thanks to their regular contact with foreigners. In the book Half a century of Faculty of Vietnamese studies and language (VNU Press), the stories of senior teachers always make readers both moved and humored. Each of the teachers teaching "basic Vietnamese alphabet" as dubbed by Prof. Nguyen Tai Can has found a way to learn a foreign language from their own students, which further improves his/her teaching.

Professor Ho Hai Thuy has also learnt many languages in that way. He said: "The most important thing is to bear in mind the cultural aspect, and never think it is silly for one's center to ask questions like: How many beer factories are there in Cuba? In the American war, one of our teachers that only knew a beer factory at Hoang Hoa Tham street posed such a question. If only someone asked him how many beer factories there are in Vietnam now, he would not know the answer" (p.134). Professor Hoang Trong Phien asserted Faculty of Vietnamese language was the first center of its kind in Vietnam, paving the way for cooperation in teaching Vietnamese with foreign universities. The first professor to have taught Vietnamese overseas was professor Ha Xuan Vinh in Sweden. Next there were Do Thanh, Duy Ngoc, Tran Khang, Dac Hue, Dinh Thanh Hue, Nguyen Thi Khanh and Quoc Vinh. They can to be regarded as messengers of the Vietnamese language to countries worldwide (p.138).  

Foreign students majoring the language at Faculty of Vietnamese language and studies

But what is most touching is the best benefit brought teaching Vietnamese language for foreigners, according to professor Bui Phung, former dean of FVLS is: "Most worthy of all is the teachers themselves can learn more about Vietnamese (if they really want to), to better love their mother tongue and be more careful when speaking and writing the language". To me, upon completing the Teaching Vietnamese language for foreigners course, I quickly realized that I had been using Vietnamese only habitually. To teach the language to foreigners, the teacher has to acquire more knowledge, skills, life experiences and conduct. By then, I felt that Vietnamese was both interesting and difficult, and the challenge was how to deliver the language in a comprehensible and assimilable way to learners. Teaching Vietnamese language thus becomes not only a livelihood but a chance for teachers to feel its beauty, appreciate and value the gift granted by their parents since they were small babies, and use it to spread the deep-seated love of their homeland to the world.                        

According to Sinh viên Việt Nam                    

Author: Thanh Huyen

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