In a small alley of Da Nang City in central Vietnam, a retired teacher has been giving free English tutoring to local children in a simple belief that all kids should be given the opportunity to learn a foreign language.
The usual tranquility of an alley on Nui Thanh Street in Hai Chau District, Da Nang is disturbed every weekend by the sounds of children speaking English.
They attend a small “class” run by Tran Thi Huong, 63, a former English teacher who has dedicated her retirement to educating local children for free.
With a small stainless steel table and some plastic chairs placed on the narrow porch of her house, Huong has inspired generations of her students to find their passion for the language.
Visiting one of her classes on a Sunday morning in May, your correspondent sat down with Huong as she had just finished tutoring three students.
Despite the limited space of her house, Huong said she never says no to new students as long as they are willing to learn.
With no placement test, she said the challenging part was individually following the learning pace of each student.
“Whenever they seem stressed out with studying, I would switch to teaching English through songs,” Huong said, adding that her other methods to lighten up the mood include rewarding her students with snacks, giving them puzzles, and teaching them to dance to songs.
“I always try to avoid causing my students any stress or giving them pressure in class,” Huong said.
|Tran Thi Huong (not seen) tutors children at her home in Da Nang, Vietnam. Photo: Tan Luc / Tuoi Tre|
Huong considers speaking one of the most important skills in learning a foreign language.
“Only when you have learnt to speak correctly are you able to listen to what people say,” she said.
Huong should know what is best for her students as she is fluent in both English and French, growing up during the French colonial period in Vietnam.
In her youth, Huong had the opportunity to study English with native speakers – an experience which she said had allowed her to acquire a native-like accent.
Apart from English, Huong also teaches her students manners, social etiquette and good habits to study any subject effectively.
|Tran Thi Huong tutors children at her home in Da Nang, Vietnam. Photo: Tan Luc / Tuoi Tre|
Opening her first free-of-charge tutoring class in 2013, Huong said the first of her students are already attending college in Vietnam and abroad.
“Every week I look forward to Sunday, when I get to see my dear students whom I love as much as my own children,” Huong said.
Teaching the kids has helped Huong stay sharp in her old age and prevent memory loss.
“I feel like I’m revisiting my childhood and the days of my younger life teaching these children,” she said.
Huong could have spent her retirement doing some paid job with her proficiency in foreign languages, but she said money was never her concern.
“You can be rich and miserable nonetheless,” Huong said.
“I find it my biggest treasure knowing these children would carry my image in their minds for the rest of their lives,” she said.