The 3 Problems For English Learners in Vietnam
With the Gross Domestic Product growing at the rate of about 6.88% per year, Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia, as well as the world. The increase in disposable income has made extra language sessions outside of school much more accessible to middle- and lower-class families. Similar to other Asian countries, exposure to western cultures through the internet has made English the most desirable language to learn in Vietnam.
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This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate VyVy V. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
For many new college graduates, being fluent in English can give them a tremendous leap in salary. For example, the average Vietnamese office worker earns about VND 8.3 million or about USD $354 per month, whereas the average monthly income for someone who works at an international company can range from VND 15 million to VND 20 million depends on the experience level. With the expansion of Vietnam’s economy and the increase in investments from foreign enterprises, the demand for an English-speaking workforce has been soaring in recent years. However, despite the government and the people’s effort to implement English in the early stages of the educational system, many Vietnamese still have trouble with English due to the lack of proper training for teachers in traditional schools, the lack of environment to practice English, and the reserved culture.
1. English Learning and Educational System
A decade ago, children won’t start learning English until elementary school where they will then jump straight into learning about grammar rather than vocabularies. In the recognition of the importance of English, children are learning basic vocabularies starting from pre-schools. In spite of the changes in the educational system, most teachers in traditional schools are not properly trained to teach proper English, especially teachers from the previous generations. Older teachers often speak English with heavy Vietnamese accents, thus, the students also learn to speak English with heavy accents. Since the students are familiar with this particular way of English pronunciation, it’s hard for them to fix their accents as they get older. This resulted in a generation of young Vietnamese people who are proficient in English grammar but struggle to get people to understand their spoken English.
2. Non-native Speaking Environment
Another problem that Vietnamese students face when learning English is the lack of English-speaking environment for them to practice. Students in large metropolitan cities such as Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi often have excellent to perfect English grammar, however, they don’t get to practice their English much besides from classrooms. On the other hand, young children and teenagers from more rural areas such as Sapa are more fluent in spoken English due to their everyday exchanges with tourists despite not knowing how to read and write in English. This is a disadvantage for many students as they are unable to answer or present their works in situations such as job interviews or when they need to present a project at school or work.
3. EFL in Early Childhood
Lastly, the biggest problem for English learners in Vietnam is the reserved culture that they are being taught at a young age. To be able to learn and practice English effectively, students must be confident in asking and answering questions even if their English is far from perfect. This contradicts with the reserved Vietnamese culture where students are taught at a young age to not question authorities such as teachers making them shy and timid in other environments as well. Some students are afraid to make mistakes, thus, shy away from speaking English. Even if they get perfect scores on English exams at school, most students lack the basis of spoken English, therefore, cannot actually use their English in everyday situations.
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