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Vietnamese-American teacher inspires English learners in Vietnam

Vietnamese-American teacher inspires English learners in Vietnam

Saturday, December 24, 2022, 17:30 GMT+7
Vietnamese-American teacher inspires English learners in Vietnam
Bryan Tran (left) smiles with Hue University School of Hospitality and Tourism students in his class. Photo: Supplied

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, Tran has been able to touch the souls of English learners at Hue University School of Hospitality and Tourism, located in central Thua Thien-Hue Province, for the past three months.

In fact, Tran’s unique approach to teaching has 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 Hospitality and Tourism.

"Many of us used to feel uncomfortable in English classes since they were mainly about theory, but now we look forward to our classes each week.”

Each of Tran’s classes is divided into two parts: theory and application through practical language exercises.

During the application portion of his classes, Tran encourages his students to speak as much as possible by hosting fun activities that allow them to get in touch with their creativity. 

One of these activities 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 help my students focus on the learning objectives of the class," Tran said.

"At the end of the lesson, I let the students reflect on what they’ve learned and discuss what they 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 City, which is the capital of Thua Thien-Hue, and Vietnamese culture.

Occasionally, Tran asks his students to take on the role of ‘tour guides’ and travel with him around Hue.

During these experiences, the students give Tran detailed and compelling insights in English.

‘Going home’

Born in New York, 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 junior-high school level.

He is currently pursuing a master's degree in French linguistics and pedagogy at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Prior to joining the ETA program, Tran paid a visit to Vietnam in 2018 to meet his extended family in Hue.

"At the time, I did not understand Vietnam much, but I burst into tears when I had to return to the U.S.," he admitted.

"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.”

Four years later, as fate would have it, Tran 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..

The teacher feels that he has grown 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 understanding his Vietnamese identity.

As a 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," he said.

"I also plan to take the time to visit tourist attractions in Vietnam and build more community connections here.”

Cultural ambassadors connecting Vietnam with the U.S.

The Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) is managed by the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi’s Fulbright Program. Launched in 2008, the ETA sends English assistant teachers to high schools, colleges, and universities in cities and provinces other than Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

The assistant teachers spend a year giving lectures on listening comprehension and speaking and help local schools with their English teaching methods. They are also cultural ambassadors to Vietnam.

A new wave of wind

Professor Dam Le Tan Anh, a lecturer at Hue University School of Hospitality and Tourism, spoke highly of Bryan Tran, noting that he has brought a ‘new wind’ to the classroom and that he is creative and enthusiastic.

Tran inspires his students to try new things and to actively overcome personal adversity while learning English.

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Kim Thoa - Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre News

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