• Eliza Chan

English as a Foreign Language

I’ve been living in Asia for three and a half years now, having taught in the public sector of Japan for a year followed by the private sector for two. Japan is well-known for being a rich, high-tech country and yet their English is poor at best. The only people with any real English are those who have travelled and worked overseas. Yet after just over three months in Vietnam, the level of English here is impressive, especially for a country pulling itself out of the third world by it’s bare feet.

So here’s my tuppence worth on why English in Vietnam is so good. *


Many people in Vietnam rely on the tourist trade and therefore being able to communicate is vital to making money. People with no formal education from motorbike taxi drivers to market stall holders can all hold a basic conversation in English with some of them tenacious and funny.


Education is hard to come by here and many children have to work  for their families to survive day to day. They know that education leads to better opportunities therefore the people that get it don’t tend to fool around in class. They are some of the hardest working students I’ve ever met.


What held a lot of Japanese students back was embarassment at making mistakes and general shyness. In Vietnam people speak their mind (which can be shocking and abrasive at first until you get use to it). They aren’t afraid to express their opinion, to nosy into your personal life and to practice with strangers whenever the opportunity arises. Good on them.


Vietnamese is written using roman characters therefore the students’ cursive writing is very good.


“Vietkieu” means overseas Vietnamese, ie., those who have emigrated or are born outside of Vietnam. Most Vietnamese people know some uncle or cousin who lives in the USA. They often admire and envy the “better life” and dream of themselves working for an international company or moving abroad. In Japan the world is so Japan-centric that young students struggle to imagine going on holiday overseas never mind living or working there.

Vietnam War

Yes, unfortunately occupation by US troops for so long has left obvious traits, interest and influences of Western culture.

So that’s what I think. I’m impressed that despite all the setbacks, people here can joke with me so easily.

* This is all personal opinion and speculation so take it all with a pinch of salt.

#teaching #English #vietnam #EFL #japan

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