Overseas project to teach Vietnamese language, culture
March 13, 2006
Overseas project to teach Vietnamese language, culture
A new project by the Ministry of Education and Training aims to help overseas Vietnamese master their native language. Trieu An reports.
Teaching Vietnamese to their two children no longer falls on the shoulders of Le Xuan Vinh and his wife, who have been living in Munich, Germany since 1987.
Vinh said his family was overjoyed when the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training’s programme for teaching Vietnamese to Vietnamese people living abroad kicked off recently.
“Most Vietnamese people living in foreign countries expect their offspring to speak Vietnamese fluently and understand the culture of the mother country,” Vinh said.
He said teaching language only by oral transmission has given the young, third or fourth generation Viet kieu (overseas Vietnamese) an incomplete understanding about Vietnamese language and culture.
Many Vietnamese people living in countries with a large, established Viet kieu or Vietnamese-community, including France, the United States, Russia, Australia and Thailand, have shown their devotion to Viet Nam by returning to help develop the country, and also by contributing money.
But an emerging problem among many third or fourth generation Viet kieu is they lack knowledge about the culture of their native country and many cannot read or write Vietnamese fluently.
According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education and Training, there were approximately 300,000 Vietnamese living in France, mainly in Paris, Marseille and Lyon. Of that group, the percentage of people whose parents were both Vietnamese was between 30 and 35 per cent, the survey reported.
Deputy director of the International Co-operation Department at the Ministry, Nguyen Thanh Huyen, said families with a mother or father born in Viet Nam paid more attention to teaching the children their native language and about the culture.
On weekends, many parents took their children to Vietnamese cultural centres, some up to 20km from home, to learn the language. These children were also encouraged to take part in social activities at the centres.
The demand for learning Vietnamese was high because the majority of third generation Vietnamese do not speak their mother-tongue.
According to a statistic in 2000, there were over 1.2 million Vietnamese living in the United States, mostly in California, Texas, Washington and Virginia.
The ministry’s survey revealed school-age Vietnamese in the US were only using English.
Some parents have brought their children to Vietnamese teaching centres and the demand for studying Vietnamese was becoming more pressing in the country.
However, director of the International Co-operation Department, Tran Ba Viet Dung, who is head of the project’s steering board, said most Vietnamese teaching centres in the US were set up spontaneously.
There are now 200 Vietnamese teaching centres in the US open over the summer holidays and on the weekends.
However, as director of a language education programme in San Francisco admitted, teaching Vietnamese in the US has been difficult because schools still do not have a bilingual curriculum for Vietnamese students like the Chinese and Filipino-American students do.
In addition, the teaching materials used in other countries were not professionally compiled and teachers were mostly volunteers.
Vietnamese students living in France have coped with a similar situation – the centres were small operations and there wasn’t a compiled syllabus or professionally-trained teachers.
In other countries such as Russia, Thailand, Laos, there is a demand for classes, but there is a lack of materials and proper teachers.
The programme to teach Vietnamese to Viet kieu is part of a project to assist foreigners in teaching and studying the Vietnamese language.
Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Phu Binh said building a set of Vietnamese language textbooks for Viet kieu must be done carefully with the goal of helping Vietnamese people living in foreign countries easily learn the mother-tongue.
Under the project, Vietnamese would be taught as a subject in school or in classes organised by overseas Vietnamese associations.
Currently, two Viet-namese language curricula are being developed by the National Institute for Educational Strategies and Curriculum – one for children, the other for adults.
Both syllabi will focus on listening comprehension, speaking and writing, as well as Vietnamese culture.
Students, when they are comfortable with Vietnamese, will also learn more about Vietnamese geography, history, legends, folk verses and proverbs.
Adults will be trained in listening comprehension, writing, political-economic concepts, as well as the traditional culture of the 54 ethnic groups inhabiting Viet Nam.
Though the Government approved the project in early 2004, there are still many issues to discuss involving the printing of the bilingual books, devising the curriculum, and laws and policies of each foreign country concerning the issue.
According to deputy director Nguyen Thanh Huyen, the US Government does not forbid the teaching of any foreign language, but there are strict regulations to obey.
The French education ministry, however, wanted the project to be available to all people who want to learn Vietnamese, regardless of their background.
It is clear that building a programme to teach Vietnamese to Viet kieu requires many factors to come together, including teachers and teaching materials, as well as support from organisations and ministries. There are now approximately 3 million Vietnamese people living abroad. — VNS