A new training curriculum at sports centers in Ho Chi Minh City is now giving young athletes the opportunity to sharpen their skills while developing their English command.
The new and increasingly popular model, ‘learning sport in English,’ employs foreign coaches to run training programs, giving students the opportunity to interact in an English-speaking environment outside of the classroom.
Established in September last year by former female football player Phan Thi Anh Dao under a motto of ‘playing football, learning foreign languages,’ iSoccer, a football school, has gathered over 150 learners at three of its facilities in District 2, 7, and Go Vap District.
Teaching classes at the center are three foreign instructors, including Ade Olowoyile, a coach from Nigeria.
According to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters’ observation, it is not just Olowoyile’s friendliness which has led to close relationships between him and his students, but also the fact that they all share the same language throughout the lesson – English.
During each lesson, the foreign coach is accompanied by a Vietnamese colleague who assists him in dealing with any language barriers that pop up while interacting with new students or those with limited English skills.
However, the use of Vietnamese is usually restricted throughout classes and is only considered a last resort when the learners cannot understand their foreign instructors after several explanation attempts.
The application of English during classes is a considerable obstacle for newcomers as they are still shy of the new learning method.
Once the kids are up to pace during their practice matches, communication between the coaches and athletes becomes fluid and the new way of learning gets extremely interesting to the students.
According to Dao, she founded iSoccer in an effort to bring changes to the model of teaching football to children in Vietnam.
“I want to focus our lessons on promoting the development of foreign language skills in young learners, especially in conversational English, which is not a focus in their school studies,” the Vietnamese coach said.
Hoang Kien, father of two students at the center, said that he believes the coaching for his children is worth the 15 kilometer drive from his house to the facility in District 2.
“I really admire the professionalism of the coaches here. They have excellent knowledge of the sport and great English skills,” Kien added.
Learning sport in English is not just limited to soccer. A basketball class named E-Balls at another sport center in District 5, despite not officially opening until June 2, has received over 100 registrants thanks to its focus on teaching the sport in English
Nguyen Xuan Hoang, founder of the class, stated that he had always focused on learning English when he was younger.
“I found that studying English is more natural and fluid when accompanied by outdoor activities or sport. I had planned to open a class that teaches basketball in English ever since,” Hoang said.
Hoang’s relationship with many people in the sport has led to invitations to coach his classes being accepted by many local and foreign coaches.
According to Do Thi Ut, a parent who registered her child for the classes, learning a sport in English is a great way for her son to stay healthy and develop his English command.