Associate Professor works to bring Vietnamese language to foreigners

As the Dean of the Faculty of Vietnamese Studies and Language under the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (USSH), Associate Prof, Dr Nguyen Thien Nam has spent 36 years of his career promoting Vietnamese language to the world. In this interview below, Dr Nam will share his vivid memories about teaching Vietnamese language during his teaching career.

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Associate Professor Nguyen Thien Nam

Can you please share with us your most memorable memory during your 36 years working as a bridge bringing Vietnamese language to the world?

I spent most of my springtime in Cambodia, this was a tough but memorial period of time. 

On those days, in order to help Cambodian friends rebuild their country, which was seriously damaged by the Pol Pot genocidal regime, we needed to develop a common channel of dialogue using Vietnamese and Khmer languages. 

Most of the teachers working at the Vietnamese Language Faculty of the USSH were encouraged to get involved in the work.

We not only came to Cambodia to teach Vietnamese but also opened training courses for foreign language teachers at foreign language universities in Hanoi as well as soldiers, who then went on to work in Cambodia. 

The overall success of restructuring Cambodia was contributed to by our Vietnamese language teachers.

What are the differences of the training programme on Vietnamese studies at your faculty with training programmes in foreign countries?

In foreign countries, Vietnamese studies targets foreigners who are interested in Vietnamese language or are making academic researches on Vietnam. 

Meanwhile, in our faculty, Vietnamese studies are open for both Vietnamese and foreign students.

This is an inter-sectional subject that provides background knowledge on Vietnamese language, history, literature and culture. 

We are currently hosting hundreds of international students from over 30 countries around the world and more than 250 Vietnamese students who are completing their Master’s or PhD degrees.

Teaching Vietnamese language is a way of contributing to preserving the country’s sprit. Can you share with us one of your touching stories during your teaching career?

Every job needs a passion, and my passion has been nurtured from very real stories. 

Our faculty has welcomed thousands of students from around the world who came here for Bachelor decrees or short training courses. 

Although they left, their stories have still remained. One of our French students, whose father is Vietnamese and mother is Chinese, returned to his father’s home country to study his native language when he was 60. 

We also received two students, a father and son from the Netherlands - the son and husband of a Vietnamese woman.

Another story is about 17 year-old James Engel, the maternal grandchild of a Dutch diplomat. 

Although James has acquired six languages, he decided to come to Vietnam to learn his seventh and gain a Master’s degree in Vietnamese Studies.

I also met a Vietnamese man who married a Russian woman and then came to the USA for work. 

He brought his wife and their three children back to Vietnam so that they could learn Vietnamese.

Our faculty has seen many interesting stories about the love for Vietnamese language, the aspiration to learn about the beauty of the Vietnamese language, history, land and people.

Your faculty has also hosted students who then became veteran diplomats and culturers. Can you name a few of them?

Over the 60 years of establishment, our faculty has trained thousands of foreigners and hundreds of veteran diplomats, 15 of them have held the positions of Ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers or have been assigned as ambassadors of foreign countries to Vietnam, such as China, Laos, Cambodia, Romania, Bulgaria, Mongolia, the UK, Palestine and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

They still keep in mind their days studying in our faculty. Romanian Ambassador to Vietnam A. 

Valeriou shared his memory about war time when people heard the sirens wailing, they would have to escape into air raid shelters. 

Meanwhile, Palestinian Ambassador S. Salama still remembered a tough period of time during his study when every party was celebrated with only a few biscuits and pieces of candy.

There is an increasing demand for learning Vietnamese language and culture among foreigners in Vietnam as well as Vietnamese communities abroad. What do you think are the basic requirements for training centres and teachers for Vietnamese language?

I am proud of the language capacity of those who have received training in our faculty meets the standard requirement. 

To be good at teaching Vietnamese, you have to meet the requirements of obtaining a good teaching method, sound knowledge on Vietnamese language and other cultures. 

But first and foremost, you have to love Vietnamese language and maintain the habit of using the language.

Thank you so much for the interview!

Nhan Dan

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