A Vietnamese man from the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai is running a start-up which focuses on applying mathematical logic to teaching English.
Established in 2016, DOL English currently boasts 18 facilities in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Da Nang, with tens of thousands of online and offline learners honing their English skills under the guidance of 150 administrative staff and teachers.
|An English class at DOL English. Photo: Supplied
In December 2023, DOL English partnered with Vietnam's Ministry of Education and Training to award 30 IELTS 8.0 and SAT 1,500 scholarships – each worth VND100 million (US$4,073) – and 30 additional scholarships in cash, each worth VND10 million ($407), to young talents who did well at international Olympiad and science and technology contests in 2023.
Le Dinh Luc, DOL English’s founder and CEO, also received merit from Deputy Minister of Education and Training Ngo Thi Minh for his contribution to the country's education system.
A tough start
As a student, Luc always excelled at math but fell short of his goals in English.
As a high schooler, the now-31-year-old moved from Gia Lai to Ho Chi Minh City after passing the entrance exam for the math program at the High School for Gifted Students under the Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City.
At his new school, Luc realized that the English courses he had been taking in high school in his hometown were very basic and that his foreign language skills did not match up to his peers.
Scoring a mere three out of 10 on his initial English semester final exam was a stark wake-up call for him.
“I was really shocked and scared that [my low English scores] would prevent me from being named as an 'excellent student,'" Luc recounted.
"Then I began studying English as hard as I could so that I could keep up with my peers.
“Instead of spending 14 hours a day studying math, I spent just six hours studying math and eight studying English.
“Sometimes it took me nearly six hours to read and understand a small six-line paragraph.
“I looked up individual words then combined them together and still had trouble understanding.
“Even with writing, it took me four hours just to write three lines.”
But Luc’s hard work paid off.
Eventually, he realized he could apply the same logic he used in math to his English learning and he began to excel.
“After a year, I found the ‘intersection’ between math and English. I really began to see outstanding progress by grades 11 and 12,” Luc told Tuoi Tre News.
“I went from having no [English] foundation to achieving an IELTS 7.5 score and 100/120 on the TOEFL iBT in only a year.”
|Le Dinh Luc is seen in a discussion with his partners at DOL English. Luc's edtech company was honored at the Tuoi Tre Start-Up Award in 2022. Photo: MINK
The Linearthinking technique
Luc coined the term 'Linearthinking' to describe the intersection he discovered between math and English.
This method, now the cornerstone of his business, received certification from the Intellectual Property Office of Vietnam in 2022.
According to Luc, Linearthinking include researching the influence of the first language on the second language and effectively applying super memory techniques and logical mathematical thinking to learning English.
In one of its bases, Linearthinking addresses the challenges arising from the influence of the Vietnamese language on Vietnamese English learners.
As an illustration, Vietnamese speakers often amalgamate words without regard for grammatical structure.
Meanwhile, English speakers put a heavier focus on sentence structure, word order, and the appropriate form of words.
In another scientific aspect, Linearthinking guides learners to apply the method of simplifying fractions to identify and comprehend specific grammar points in a sentence, with subsequent modification of details.
According to Luc, teachers at DOL English are required to have achieved an IELTS 8.0 band and a degree in language or science-related majors.
They are also required to undergo training in DOL English’s teaching methods.
|Teachers are trained in DOL English’s teaching methods. Photo: Supplied
In addition to offline learning, DOL English has developed a self-study platform and an online Vietnamese-English dictionary.
Since 2022, Luc's start-up has been approached by investment funds who have valued DOL English at $25 million.
Despite such a high valuation, Luc is not so sure he is ready to sell out.
“We believe that creating value brings happiness, that's why, when working on a product, we always tell our employees that the long-term benefits [of their work] will be enormous,” Luc said.
“No matter how much money you have, it can’t compare to the happiness of creating value for someone.”
Currently, DOL English works with departments of education across Vietnam to interact with hundreds of high schools and universities.
“The ambition is to launch products catering to general English teaching and IELTS courses for middle school students in 2024,” Luc said, adding that he hopes to eventually reach Chinese, Korean, and Japanese markets.