My first trip with Teachers Helping Teachers SIG to Vietnam is over now. It was a whirlwind – and a blur. There is a lot and too much to reflect on as a result, there are projects to work on, decisions to make, new friends to keep in touch with, professional and life goals to set and work towards. You’d never think so much can happen to a person in a week’s time! But this is all material for some other posts that I will or will not write here. This one, however, is about a class I taught as part of our program and that many of YOU, readers, Twitter and Facebook friends, made possible. Here’s how it happened.
***** Planning *****
As I mentioned earlier, the program involves some of us, volunteers with the THT SIG, guest teaching a class in the university where the seminars for teachers are later held (Hue University of Foreign Languages which has apparently been the partner and platform provider for the seminars for about 12 years). Anyway, I had never before been faced with a task to teach a class of students in a country I hadn’t even been to before and frankly, know very little about in terms of education or English education. So the first thing I did was write an email to my partner teacher.. and ask a million questions. I thought I could come across as a little over-anxious, but I needed to know certain things before thinking of a lesson plan. Things I needed to know were the following: What time exactly does the lesson start and finish? Is there any break between two periods? Who are the students? What is their major? What is their level of English? How many students can we expect in the classroom? The class is scheduled to be a listening class – does that mean that same group of students has a variety of classes throughout the week that focus on different skills? Should our lesson be a listening lesson as planned – or any other focus is possible? Would you like to team teach or would you prefer me to teach the whole time? What do you think will be best for students? Is it necessary to use the topic shown in the syllabus, including the textbook and materials that you and students have – or are you allowed to diverge from the syllabus in this guest teaching class? If it’s necessary to follow the syllabus, could you please fill me in on the important details (textbook pages, what students will have done by then, etc). And if you are allowed to have some freedom in our guest teaching time, would you have any preferences as for the topic?
Luckily, the teacher, Ms. Phuong aka Kathy was very positive in her response and seemed happy to communicate on these and other points I had for her later. She gave very useful feedback to my lesson idea, too!
And my idea was to have students explain things related to what they know best – their culture. Using Twitter and Facebook, I asked a simple “What would you like to know about Vietnamese culture?” – and got a list of 15 or so questions. Thank you! 🙂 Again, I so easily got the proof of how social media (AND personal) connections can empower our teaching, something I’d almost forgot about teaching in my current job.
Fast forward to March 21st. I’m in the classrom and students slowly trickle in – and I know we won’t be starting on time (which is fine! I remember how to be flexible.) I was feeling nervous, but then I saw maybe students were kind of uneasy, too, and that’s only natural. We chatted about it a little, we smiled. I tried to use the marker on the whiteboard and it didn’t work. Ms. Phuong took a marker out of her own bag and gave it to me. Somehow, I wasn’t even surprised that would be the case – both in Russia and in Japan I carry my own markers to the classroom.
Anyway, back to class. In the first 45-minute period we did an activity where students speculated about what my life as a Russian living and teaching English in Japan might be, on certain topics that I gave them, such as my house, my daily routine, my free time, etc (I modified one of the activities from Culture in Our Classrooms book). Time-related and other reasons prevented us from working on ALL of the questions you asked in the second period, I hope you understand. I had to make a choice and picked, together with Ms. Phuong, ten questions that would be most suitable for the level of the students and their ability. I dictated the questions, then students had to choose at least 3 questions that were interesting for them to respond to and work on those individually. I was surprised and happy to find that most students answered almost all of the questions! After talking about their answers in pairs, they were to put their name and a smiley face on their paper IF they agreed to let me use their ideas for this blog post. 🙂 Now, this is what it’s all about. Here’s what you wanted to know about the Vietnamese culture – and we bring it to you.
1. How often and what do college students drink in Vietnam?
College students often drink milk tea and beer when they hang out with their friends.
College students in VN hardly drink alcohol like beer but they drink milk tea and canned drink like Coke. We sometimes drink beer on special occasions like birthday or reunion party.
They often drink milk tea and coffee 5 times a week.
In VN, they often drink milk tea, coffee, fruit drink, cane juice with friends after school, in free time or on weekend.
Quite often. Especially among young college students and young people who are so corrupted (playboys/girls). They drink on most occasions, like random parties, birthday parties, relative parties, etc.
Coconut, sugarcane juice…
Students in Vietnam often drink some fruit water, milk tea, coffee, etc…
Vietnamese college students often drink beer, local beer, and some kind of soft drink.
Twice a month, beer or sweet canner.
Sometimes, when we meet highschool classmates or have some parties. We usually drink beer. Some girls drink coke or something not alcohol.
College students often drink milk tea and smoothies. They drink when they go out with friends or sometimes order from home.
They often drink milk tea, soft drinks, beer.
2. How do Vietnamese people celebrate Lunar New Year?
Vietnamese people celebrate Lunar New Year by cooking “Chung” cake, decorating their houses by blossom trees, and giving lucky money.
VNese people shop for new things for celebrating in their house, buy new clothes to prepare for Lunar New Year called “Tet.” During Tet they visit each other and hang out with their friends or relatives.
Vietnamese people usually cook delicious kinds of food and put them on altar for commemorating ancestors. In addition, they decorate their house and go shopping before Tet. On the first day of the year, they often visit their relatives and children receive lucky money from adults.
The Vietnamese often decorate and clean their houses in Lunar New Year. They decorate their house with lamps, flowers, papers, etc. They also paint again the walls in their house. They prepare a lot of materials to make “banh chung, banh tet,” such as pork, banana leaf, green bean. Members of the family come back and celebrate Lunar New Year together.
The Vietnamese often offer the five-fruits tray that symbolizes the good luck to expect good things in life. It is considered the tradition of Vietnamese culture. Besides, they often buy some flowers, apricot blossom, kumquat tree, etc…
Vietnamese people try to be tactful and careful when they celebrate Lunar New Year.
We clean the house before the new year. Three first days of the year we visit relatives, children receive lucky money, they go to pagoda for wishes.
Before Lunar New Year, everybody in family stay together to cook rice cake and vegetable pickles. The older give the children lucky money.
3. What do Vietnamese students like to do with their families and friends? Is it true that Vietnamese students care more about their families (than friends)?
Yes, it’s true that Vietnamese people care more about their family. Students like to hang out, travel with their friends, and stay at home and cook with their families.
VNese people like travelling with their family and spend their free time after school wth their friends. It’s true that we care more about our family. Family is always the most important and priority.
That’s true. In their thinking, family is all.
They want to go out, travel with their own families. Especially when there are family reunions, they gather family members and have parties to celebrate. It’s also true that most of the young VNese people care about their families, especially after marriage, young people now have their own family to care about, but they still help and send money to their elderly parents.
Vietnamese students like to have meals or travel with family and like to go shopping or watching movies with friends. It’s true that VN people care more about family. They spend more time with family and share happiness and sadness together.
With family, I like all members sit together chatting after meal. With friends, I like walking and eating out in a place for students. It’s true that we care about family, because often the majority of the Vietnamese live three generations together and people care for each other, especially the elderly.
I don’t know about other students but I like to have a meal with my family, I want to be with them as much as possible. I have been far from them for 6 years. And I want to travel with my friends, we will have a great time together.
4. What countries are attractive for travelling and for studying abroad?
Vietnamese students really want to travel to Australia, Korea, Finland and America.
For the VNese, Thailand or some Asian countries are the most frequent places for travelling. For studying, they choose America, Singapore, Australia or Canada mostly.
Korea, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, becacuse they have delicious street foods and nice view places.
I think Australia, Canada, America… Because their education system is very developed and modern. There are many famous and beautiful places… There are a lot of lecturers who are so friendly, helpful, well-educated… We can exchange culture and languages with other students because they are from many countries in the world.
I think China is attractive because I also learn Chinese language.
The most attractive country for travelling and study abroad is America.
England, USA, Singapore, Japan.
5. Do Vietnamese students make up English-sounding nicknames for classroom use and for daily life?
Not very many Vietnamese students create their own English-sounding nicknames in class or daily life.
We rarely create English-sounding nicknames. We usually make nicknames by animals’ names or someone’s specific character.
Yes, they do. There are some reasons why students want to give their friends or themselves a nickname. Some people think it’s cool to have a foreign nickname or it simply sounds funny compared to what VNese think about names and such. For example, people call me “Tomorrow” because my last name is “Mai” and it means “the next day” or “tomorrow” in VNese.
VN students don’t create English-sounding nicknames for English class but for daily life most students use the nickname that their family usually call them.
I have a nickname for my English class but I don’t use it for daily life. I think everyone is the same with me.
6. Which is more cool, Japan or Korea?
Korea is cooler!
Korea is more cool for Vietnamese students. They love K-pop.
I think it depends on what culture and language people are interested in. Like, part of the young people love Japanese culture, anime culture, J-pop, etc… They will choose Japan. And the opposite part for Korea if they like Korean fashion and K-pop.
Korea Japan is more cooler than Japan Korea.
I think Korea.
I think Japan.
7. What are key necessary ingredients for a Vietnamese meal?
The necessary ingredient for a Vietnamese meal is sauce, for example fish sauce, soy sauce.
The important ingredient is fish sauce.
I think this is fish sauce. Because my mom says that most of the dishes taste best with fish sauce.
Fish, rice, and pho.
Rice. Of course.
8. In Vietnam, what is a polite way to greet someone?
The polite way to greet someone is to shake hands.
Say “Hi” and wave hand.
The polite way is shaking hand and hugging each other.
You wave one of the hands and say “Chao,” “Xin chao,” or “Hey”… Something like that, at the same time.
Shake hands and say hello, or wave hello, call name…
Greeting and a friendly smile 🙂
Say “Hello” and make friends with somebody and smile at someone.
Look at her eyes and smile.
Say “xin chao”
9. What clothing is appropriate in Vietnam?
Vietnamese people can wear any clothes, but not to show a lot of cleavage.
Jeans and shirts or T-shirt, shorts are acceptable.
To the oriental thoughts: men can wear any clothes they want but women should wear full-covered clothing or people will consider you are a naughty or a play girl. But in modern days people are more open-minded and wear Western-style clothing more.
Ao dai, T-shirt and trousers, dress…
Ao dai is the clothing suitable in Vietnam.
Skirt or jeans or T-shirt.
You can wear everything you want but not too short or small.
Jeans, skirt, shorts.
10. Do Vietnamese people travel around Vietnam? What are some popular destinations?
Yes, they travel around Vietnam. The popular places are Hue, Da Nang, Da Lat, Nha Trang, Sapa.
We do travel around VN. Some famous destinations are: Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh, Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, Nha Trang, etc.
Some people do, some don’t. If they have good financial condition, they will. But still, some people just want to work more and more, and save money for the living purpose, not to enjoy life…
Sapa, Hoi An old town, Nha Trang beach…
Yes, they do. Here are several destinations in Vietnam: Hoi An ancient city, Hue city, Phong Nha-ke Bang cave.
VN people travel around VN very much. There are many beautiful caves in VN that attract tourists to go there.
Vietnamese people travel around Vietnam. The places where Vietnamese always travel are Da Lat, Da Nang, and Son Doong (Quang Binh, DMZ).
Da Lat is the most interesting place for travelling because it has many beautiful views, fresh air and flowers.
Yes, I do. Some popular places are Thien Mu, Dai Noi, Nguyen Dinh Chieu street and so on…
I think that is Danang and Hoi An. There are a mix of modern and traditional. I have never been there.
Yes, they do. They often travel in the summer or spring. Some popular places are Da Lat, Da Nang, Sapa…
***** Final thoughts and comments *****
I would very much like to thank this group of students, who didn’t know what kind of class they were walking into on March 21st, but were all so engaged and responsive and active. I had been nervous imagining what it was going to be like, teaching a class of students I don’t know (and who don’t know me!), in a country I’d never been to before. In the end, it was so much fun – and I hope the information they shared can be useful for anyone who wants to know more about Vietnam. Ms. Phuong, Doan Van Vu, Pham Thi Thuy Linh, Nhat Minh, Lien Thi, Thanh Nhat, Thuy Dung, Hoang Anh Mai Thi, Tien, Linh Thy, Nguyen Phuong Thanh, Vo Thi Van Tham, Hong Diem, Minh Trang, Phuong, Nhu Quynh… Thank you so much – and I’m sorry if I made any mistakes in spelling out your names!!..I did my best 🙂 And I truly hope I’ll see you again.
P.S. Random notes:
- their handwriting is a beautiful cursive!! Very impressive penmanship.
- after class a few girls came up to me and wanted to become Facebook friends. Each of them later sent me a private greeting and thank-you message! I was touched and again impressed by their social media manners 😉
- it was already in Vietnam that I learnt that every word in Vietnamese is one syllable (right?…). So they spell their country as Viet Nam. Hence the abbreviations you might have noticed in their writing – VN and VNese people.
- maybe I remember how to plan a class that is not a discussion class that follows a similar structure each time. Maybe I remember how to be a little creative and flexible in-action. I was relieved to feel how I felt teaching what I myself chose to, and being comfortable and confident doing so. I think maybe I’ll be OK in my next job. 🙂
Thank you for reading, as ever. I hope this post can be useful in some ways, to some.