[EDLING:1278] Overseas project to teach Vietnamese language, culture

Francis M. Hult fmhult at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Tue Feb 28 00:01:53 UTC 2006

VietNam News


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.

Language demand

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 

The ministry’s survey revealed school-age Vietnamese in the US were only using 

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.

New programme

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-

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

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