ietNamNet Bridge – Foreign language centers have been mushrooming in Vietnam, especially in big cities like Hanoi or HCM City. However, despite the the number of foreign language centers, foreign languages remain a nightmare for Vietnamese students.
Foreign languages are barriers?
A mini survey conducted by VietNamNet’s reporters on 300 students from six high schools and universities in Hanoi, Da Nang and HCM City in November 2010 showed that most of student are “afraid of learning foreign languages”.
263 polled students said that foreign language exams are always their biggest fear in every exam season. Analysts say that most students just learn foreign languages in order to pass exams and get university degrees, while they do not think they will use foreign languages in their future jobs.
A noteworthy observation from the survey is that 78 percent of students said they cannot speak a grammatically correct sentence. Meanwhile, 81 percent of students said they cannot understand foreigners in conversations.
Foreign language teachers also say they can feel the fear of foreign languages from students. Nguyen Huy Hoang, Head of the English Division under the Huynh Thuc Khang High School in Quang Ngai province, said that though students are forced to learn foreign languages for seven years at high school, most of Vietnamese students, after finishing high school, still cannot speak any foreign languages.
“Vietnamese students are much inferior to regional students in listening and speaking,” he noted.
The same is occurring with university education. Dr Lam Quang Dong, Dean of the English Faculty under the Foreign Language University of the Hanoi National University, said that university lecturers regularly have to reteach what students learned in high school because many students are “foreign language illiterate again”.
Dr Dong thinks that the training curriculums now applied in Vietnam’s education system is still problematic, which does not allow students to intensively practice the four necessary skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Meanwhile, teachers do not have many opportunities to go abroad to practice English to improve their knowledge, while learners do not spend much time or effort to learn foreign languages.
Therefore, bad foreign language skills are the biggest barrier which prevents many talented students from going abroad to continue their studies. Even though they meet requirements to enroll in prestigious universities in the world, many students have to give up their dream of going studying abroad simply because they are not proficient in English.
What to do?
In order to improve foreign language skills, many students go to foreign language centers, where they are told that they can practice the four necessary skills intensively. However, many of them have not fulfilled their dream.
Hoang Hai Long, a fourth year student at the Agriculture University, said he went to three foreign language centers. Especially, he spent 4-5 million dong on a training course for intensive preparation for the IELTS exam. However, despite his efforts, Long still does not have the “ticket” to go studying abroad.
Pham Nguyen Y Ly, a 12th grader at the Vietnam Germany High School in Hanoi, said she has given up on a famous foreign language center, because her French has not improved after six months of learning there.
VietNamNet’s reporters interviewed two learners of IEC Cambridge to try to find out why the English skills of many learners do not improve even though they have attended several different training courses. Nguyen Thi Cam Van, who has scored a 7.0 on the IELTS, said that not all foreign language centers can provide high quality training. Nguyen Thanh Tung, who scored a 7.76 on the IELTS and is now a student at UK Aston – Birmingham University, said every training school has its own advantages, and learners need to choose the school which can satisfy their requirements.