HCMC Dining Guide

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Teaching Impressions

My two weeks of teacher training comes to an end tomorrow, so I figured I'd offer some thoughts on teaching Vietnamese students. I've never taught before, so I was nervous for my first class on Monday of last week, but I feel that I've improved a lot since then, along with the rest of my LanguageCorps friends. I have to say it is a nice feeling to have the complete attention of a class full of people for 90 minutes. It makes you feel very important. I've also been able to gain a lot of insight on how average Vietnamese people think and live, which I'm very thankful for. I did a lesson on international food the other day, and I realized how lucky I am to come from a totally globalized melting pot like the U.S., where you can find Indian, Italian, Lebanese, Mexican, etc. food in any city. Even though there are those types of restaurants in Saigon, my students had no idea what those terms even meant. Whereas we learn geography in grade school, many of the students I taught don't know what Greece or Mexico are, let alone what kind of food comes from those countries. Everyone in the class was around the same age as me, and I had to realize that they are not stupid, they just grew up in a completely different world than me. They are smart in very specific ways: for example, Hung, one of my best students, knew about the greenhouse effect and hydroelectric power, but had no idea what a glacier is.


Another thing I've had to get used to is speaking slowly in front of the class. Many students can read and write very well, but if you speak at a conversational speed they will be utterly lost. When people speak slowly to me I feel insulted, so I've had to learn that speaking slowly doesn't mean they aren't intelligent, they just aren't used to hearing English spoken at the speed we are all used to. It's been interesting to see why Vietnamese students struggle with certain pronunciations as well. In Vietnamese the letter "q" is pronounced as a "w", so when you want them to say "question" they say "westion" instead. It can be difficult to explain why that letter has a totally different pronunciation in English, but I think I did a decent job. Asian languages also don't use articles - words like a, an, the, this and that, etc. For example, in Vietnamese "Anh muon uong gi" literally means "You drink what?" So, when students speak English, they speak the way they know in Vietnamese - by leaving out those words, which are vital for me to understand what they are trying to say. You can also say "I go to store" in Vietnamese and be perfectly correct, but sound ridiculous in English.


These are just a few of things I've learned in my two weeks of teaching, I'm sure I'll learn a lot more in the next year. I do love the fact that I can learn about Vietnamese culture and customs from my students while I educate them about English and topics outside of Vietnam at the same time.


I'm still loving Saigon as well. It's fascinating to be in a city that is growing and changing by the day, especially coming from America, where most areas are so developed that they have just become stagnant. There are some huge engineering projects going on here; this bridge over the Saigon River, along with the skyscraper I mentioned in a previous post, would look stunning even in a major Western city.

The city continues to impress me everyday, and I can't wait to move into my house with my wonderful roomates Allison and Andee on Monday. I haven't cooked a meal since I left the States, and I've been living out of a suitcase since then as well. Stretching out in a living room and cooking a nice dinner will be wonderful, and I will finally feel like a real resident of Saigon, not just some tourist staying at a hotel in the backpacker area. Until then, I'll leave you with a shot of part of Saigon's ever-expanding skyline.

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