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Vietnamese learners of English – Who are they?

Vietnamese learners of English are everywhere in Vietnam. Basically, everybody wants to study English especially now when you can find an English Center almost on every street at an affordable price. They told me that “English is a must if you want a good job”. I have been living in Vietnam since September 2005, I have been teaching English since 2008 and I can say “Learning English is an obsession in Vietnam”.

Categories of learners

Kindergarten learners of English

Two years ago I had to send my daughter to kindergarten. Surprise! She is not Vietnamese citizen, so she wasn’t accepted in a Public Kindergarten. I found a private one and another surprise amazed me; at kindergarten she studies English one and a half hour a day from Monday to Friday. She was under three years old. At that moment I realized how big the obsession of Vietnamese for studying English is.

Soon after that I started teaching there and to be honest, three year old learners are far better than any other category. They are not shy and they repeat absolutely everything you say in the class. A three year old child has to know over two hundred words, many usual expressions, and many more. It is very hard to teach them pronunciation, they don’t even speak Vietnamese very well but for sure they accumulate information faster than other learners.

The English program differs from kindergarten to kindergarten but for sure the kindergarten learners are all smart. Kindergarten learners is the best category because they are not shy, they are smart and they take English as a joke.

Children classes at the weekend

Saturday and Sunday morning all English Centers are fulfilled with children. Parents want their children to study English. They are between 5 to 12 years old. I teach these kind of classes every weekend from 8 to 11 in the morning. All of them primary school students and they understand very well the difference between a Public School (where they are bitten if don’t learn) and an English Center where they are clients; and they do act like clients.

You, as a teacher will not see great improvement in their English abilities. At the English Center I teach, children study English Land (six books) then jump to American Inspiration. They really don’t care about English and their main purpose is to have fun. Teachers have a difficult task in teaching them English. Be prepared with a lot of games or activities for them.

Teenagers in English Centers

I have just two classes a week but I think they are the worst. The same English Center and the students have just finished English Land 6. The new book is American Inspiration, such a big difference compare with English Land. At this point they should know vocabulary and should be able to speak quite well. I do believe the fault belongs to the school, American Inspiration is not suitable to be taught after English Land. Students don’t understand anything is written in the book and they are totally "out of date".

At this point, the learning process should imply a little bit of home studying but you can imagine how much they study at home. Categories one, two, and three are young learners who don’t understand the importance of English language for their future and they are forced to study English by their parents.

I really hate teaching those classes. Because of the difficulty of the book, they are not confident enough and making conversation with them is almost an impossible task.

Teaching adults

“Adults” is an apart category. They are university students or employees. They want to study and they understand the importance of English language for their future. In most cases they pay their own money and they expect to learn English fast. They don’t want to study in a typical school environment, they want a funny one and relaxed. Fair enough! They are also shy which makes communication with them more difficult than it should be.

They usually complain about the teacher (something like “my teacher is not funny”) , at least at English Center where I have worked, and they can change the teacher very easily.

If you can be a good clown then you will be successful. I don’t want to say the name of the English Center but I believe most of the English Centers are the same.

There is one more category, teaching English in a Public School. For this category I will write another article. I believe in the near future all of the Public Schools will hire foreign English teachers.


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