Thursday, April 30, 2009

Concerned English teacher in Vietnam

My English is getting worse...and I teach it for a living.

The other day, a friend asked me where the nearest convenience shop was and I replied, "close here." Not "close to here" or "near here," but "close here."

Yesterday, while driving out of Ho Chi Minh City, I told my friend Will that I thought our journey was really "adventuresome."

Simplifying English for my Vietnamese students hours each day has began to take its toll with hilarious results. My English is not static, nor improving, but actually getting worse, and I try to teach this stuff every day! The Vietnamese don't conjugate verbs in English because they don't in Vietnamese. It's a simple, literal translation. So, when talking to a Vietnamese student, they might have difficulty understanding the past tense of "to buy."

So instead of saying, I "bought my motobike three weeks ago," you will find yourself saying, "I buy three weeks ago."

I've done this enough that I've started to think it's normal and natural and an efficient way to speak. Take English articles (the, a, an) for example, probably the most pointless grammatical structures known to man. When a Vietnamese student asks about them, you can't help but agree and say, "yeah, they're pretty stupid."

It became apparent what a foreign country will do to your English with enough time during my teaching training course in Vietnam. One of the students could hardly speak English and here he was in a course that trained you how to teach it. At first, I thought he was from Eastern Europe or something, but his accent was of such a unique variety that no one really knew. It took about two weeks to find out that he was from England! He had spent eight years in Korea and his English has deteriorated into such a boggled mess that fellow Englishmen couldn't pinpoint his accent.

The main reason I decided to travel to a foreign country and try my hand at teaching English is because of blogs like these, most notably Shawn's Korea and China Life Blogs and Gaijin Smash. I spent many a night reading those blogs back when traveling abroad was just a fantasy. So I reckon it's my turn to pass on some experiences and knowledge, and hopefully in turn, slow the decay of my English skills.

Not sure how frequently I will update this blog. Maybe in a couple of years I won't have the requisite English to string together a coherent sentence, so I might as well start now. Cheers.


  1. Thanks, well I have been in the smilier experience too! I was Studying in England a couple of years a ago and when I left England I had the confident about level of english as I was too close enough to be in level of native speaker. I wasn't worrying about it too much until I stopped practicing my English skills cos of being home where I was struggling to improve.

    Few months later, I had been offer a job for a british company which I like cos I thought I'll have the chance to improve my skills and if not improve keep the same level! that was good

    sometimes I do speak with nonnative speakers which is absolutely awful which doesn't help to improve!

  2. see the first mistake

    I should say in a smilier ;-)