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Foreigners learning Vietnamese: The challenges that must be overcome

Monday, September 28, 2015, 08:00 GMT+7
Foreigners learning Vietnamese: The challenges that must be overcome

Advertorial -- The number of foreigners living in Vietnam and the demand for qualified schools and teachers of the Vietnamese language has grown dramatically due to increasing economic integration and cultural exchanges between Vietnam the rest of the world. Here are the challenges the foreign student must overcome in their effort to learn Vietnamese.

The first challenge: Finding the right language center

Even for foreigners living in Vietnam, it can be a challenge to find an appropriate language center. Only a few universities offer Vietnamese language courses and then only at the elementary level and at very restricted times. University regulations may limit classes only to registered university students, thereby excluding full-time company employees and other interested adult students.

Faced with such restrictions, foreigners must find private teachers or tutors in order to learn Vietnamese. However here too, there are risks as some teachers and tutors may have limited experience in teaching Vietnamese to foreigners. Vietnamese is a difficult language for foreigners to learn and the tones in particular are very challenging, especially for students from English-speaking countries where tones play only a minor or no role at all.

According to several foreigners’ experience, here are some capable Vietnamese teaching centers that deserve serious consideration:

1. 123Vietnamese Center

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Photo: 123vietnamese.com

This center is a favorite of foreign students. The teachers are skilled, experienced and enthusiastic. Another strength of the center is that it offers flexible class times and its teachers can visit company worksites to conduct classes.

2. Saigon Language School

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Photo: Saigon Language School

This may be a suitable choice for foreigners who can meet the university's admission standards and who have the time and flexibility to follow a fixed class schedule. In addition to the Vietnamese language, the Hanoi National University of Education also offers students classes in Vietnamese culture and history.

3. Faculty of Vietnamese Studies and Language at Hanoi National University of Education

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This may be a suitable choice for foreigners who can meet the university's admission standards and who have the time and flexibility to follow a fixed class schedule. In addition to the Vietnamese language, the Hanoi National University of Education also offers students classes in Vietnamese culture and history.

The second challenge: How to select a teacher

As stated earlier, finding a well-qualified Vietnamese teacher is not easy whether the student is in Vietnam or not. Of course, many native Vietnamese speakers can speak, read and write Vietnamese very well. However, just a few are skilled in teaching Vietnamese as a foreign language. Qualified teachers use specialized methods to help the student progress quickly and are key to guiding students to advanced levels. Therefore it is vital that the foreign student find a qualified teacher.

Ideally, foreigners should learn Vietnamese with native Vietnamese speakers who have been specially trained to teach the language. It can be very difficult to find a suitable and well-qualified Vietnamese teacher abroad. Of course students could rely on Vietnamese friends and acquaintances, but progress is likely to be minimal unless their friends are qualified teachers using the appropriate teaching skills and methods.

Within Vietnam, there are a number of Vietnamese centers for foreigners. Some employ skilled teachers such as: 123Vietnamese at Xuan Thuy Street, Cau Giay District, Hanoi (www.123vietnamese.com), Saigon Language School in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, and the Faculty of Vietnamese Studies and Language at the Hanoi National University of Education in Hanoi.

However, prospective Vietnamese language learners should exercise caution as many centers hire university students who lack teaching skills and experience to teach Vietnamese. Foreign students in these cases may not receive effective lessons or good value for their money.

The third challenge: How to study Vietnamese effectively

Each student of Vietnamese has different needs and goals, and each will benefit from a customized study method. It is very important to have an effective study method when beginning to learn a new language since it can play up to a 90% role in studying success.

Additionally, the Vietnamese language has unique rhythmic and tonal features that separate it from other languages. Furthermore, each student will have a unique learning method because each has different study demands and targets. Here are some study tips, based on 10 years of teaching Vietnamese to foreigners:

  • Take time to listen. Listening is a key to success no matter what language is studied, but especially so with the tonal Vietnamese language.

  • Study with a native Vietnamese teacher trained to teach Vietnamese - you will receive a fantastic and effective speaking, listening, reading and writing education.

  • Interact with Vietnamese speakers frequently as this will help build up speed with listening and speaking abilities.

The newest teaching method: Learning Vietnamese online

More students are choosing to learn the Vietnamese language online as technology becomes more popular and accessible. One obvious advantage is that students can study anywhere, anytime. Furthermore the tuition fee for online courses is much cheaper than regular classes.

Earlier, the challenges of finding a good language center and qualified teacher were discussed. Even students who overcome these obstacles may not be able to book adequate times with their teachers because of scheduling conflicts. In cases like these, online courses might be a good solution for them. Here again the student must be careful since the quality of online courses varies widely with some sites offering only minimal teaching and others very comprehensive. Here are some suggested websites:

1. www.123vietnamese.com

This is a carefully designed and useful website. Via lessons, topics, films and songs, this website helps students learn Vietnamese easily, achieving the best results in the least time.

2. www.learnvietnamesewithannie.com

Annie produces lessons in the southern dialect. Her videos cover topics at the elementary level and students will find useful information on pronunciation, grammar and sentence patterns.

Foreigners can learn the Vietnamese language

In conclusion, foreigners face many challenges when learning Vietnamese. Nevertheless, there is strong interest to study Vietnamese and many foreign students enjoy learning not only the language but also the history, culture and traditions of Vietnamese people. The good news is that foreigners can achieve success with this difficult but fascinating and beautiful language if they find an appropriate language center, study with qualified teachers, and utilize suitable online resources.

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