Bryan Tran, a Vietnamese-American currently teaching English in central Vietnam, has earned acclaim from his students for his tireless dedication to transforming his classroom into an exciting, practical language lab.
Thanks to the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) program, an initiative which places Fulbright scholarship recipients in classrooms with local English teachers, Vietnamese-American Bryan Tran has been able to touch the souls of English learners at Hue University School of Tourism for the past three months.
In fact, Tran’s unique approach to teaching have led students at the university to dub his class a “party of English culture and language.”
Creativity in the classroom
"Teacher Bryan inspires the students in our class to learn English. Every lesson is so fun. He always teaches us very practical knowledge," said Le Nguyen Quynh Thi, a student at Hue University School of Tourism.
"Many of us used to feel uncomfortable in English classes they were mainly about theory, but now we look forward to our classes each week," Thi added.
Each of Tran’s classes are divided into two parts: theory and application through practical language exercises.
During the application portion of his classes, Tran encourages students to speak as much as possible by hosting fun activities that allow students to get in touch with their creativity.
One of these activities, for example, involved asking students to take on the role of famous singers, such as Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift, to answer questions from “reporters” (their peers) on the red carpet.
"I often write the sentence model "I can..." to inspire the students," Bryan said.
"At the end of the lesson, the students and I complete the sentence with what we learned and [discuss] what we need to improve in subsequent lessons.”
Outside of the classroom, Tran connects with his students over occasional outings and dinners.
During these meetings, however, his students transform into teachers as they explain, in English, how Vietnamese dishes are prepared and share interesting stories about Hue and Vietnamese culture.
Occasionally, Tran asks his students to take on the role of ‘tour guide’ and travel with him around the city and region to places such as downtown Hue, Lang Co Beach, Hoi An, and Da Nang. During these experiences, the students give Tran detailed and compelling insights in English.
Born in New York, the United States, Tran learned Vietnamese from his parents despite living in an area with a relatively small Vietnamese community.
He earned a bachelor's degree in French from Le Moyne College in New York before teaching French at the high school level.
He is currently pursuing a master's degree in French and pedagogy at Middlebury College in Vermont.
Prior to joining the ETA program, Tran made a visit to Vietnam in 2018 to meet his extended family, who also live in Hue.
"At the time, I did not understand much about Vietnam, but I burst into tears [sic] when I had to return to the U.S.," he shared.
"It could be that I share a special connection with Vietnam. I felt compelled to return to Vietnam one day, not just for a short trip, but to live and work in the country," Bryan explained.
Four years later, as fate would have it, Bryan found himself back in Hue, this time as a teacher. ETA participants do not get to choose their placement, making it even more surprising that Tran was fortunate enough to be placed near his family in Hue.
For Tran, working in Vietnam feels like "going home" because it allows him the opportunity to live for a short time in the place where his parents were born and raised.
He has been able to meet his Vietnamese relatives and become better acquainted with the Hue accent, a unique experience that would have been impossible had he stayed in the U.S.
Bryan feels that he grew up quite a bit during his first three months of working in Vietnam. He has learned more about his parents’ hometown and moved one step closer to finding out who he truly was.
As an added bonus, he learned how to drive a motorcycle and added dozens of words to his Vietnamese vocabulary.
"Until May 2023, when I return to my home country, I want to spend as much time as possible teaching and helping my students speak English," Bryan said.
"I also plan to take the time to visit tourist attractions in Vietnam and build more community connections here," he added.