Heartfelt letter from Harris, a VLS student, to VLS and to cô Hằng

Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Cám ơn Harris đã có “tâm thư” cho VLS và cô Hằng. / Thank Harris Risell for your heartfelt letter to VLS and to cô Hằng.
(Harris đến Việt Nam theo học bổng Princeton in Asia để dạy tiếng Anh tại Sóc Trăng./ Harris is a fellow of Princeton in Asia, coming to Sóc Trăng to teach English.)

"It's not goodbye, it's see you later." 
            I enjoyed many things about the course I took through VLS. I think the structure of the course I took was easy to follow, and the content of the course was relevant to my learning goals. I think what really makes taking a course through VLS worthwhile, though, are the teachers and staff there. Many of the teachers and staff at VLS speak multiple languages, including English, so taking a Vietnamese class there, even starting at a beginning level like I did, is not very difficult or intimidating. In fact, I think the learning environment that VLS creates is really welcoming. I studied at VLS in Hồ Chí Minh City with several teachers for about a week before I moved to Sóc Trăng, where I currently work. When I studied with those teachers, I thought that all of them were great teachers and I really appreciated that they spent time with me and helped me become familiar with some of the basics of Vietnamese.

            However, I only studied with most of those teachers for a short time because after that week, I studied exclusively with cô Hằng. So, there is a lot more I can say about my experience learning with her. I really appreciate that cô Hằng adjusted parts of the course I took to suit my learning needs. Throughout the course, she would focus on teaching me the most necessary and useful concepts given the environment in which I use Vietnamese (I am an English teacher in Sóc Trăng). For example, during several lessons, cô Hằng taught me a few ways to politely refuse when someone invites me to go out drinking. If you do not know already, many people in Sóc Trăng as well as other parts of the Mekong Delta drink a lot beer and wine, so learning some ways to refuse in that situation is really useful, especially when you are really tired and do not want to go out (or when you have already gone out to drink several times in the past week). In general, it is important to know how to refuse in Vietnamese because if you have a lot of friends in Viet Nam, you will probably be invited to go to many places, maybe every day, which can be exhausting if you always say "yes."

Also, cô Hằng often helped me understand parts of the language using examples from her own life or examples that were relevant to my experiences. This style of hers made the content of the course more personal and engaging. Cô Hằng is very flexible when it comes to her teaching schedule: every time that I was too busy to study on the day or at the time we decided to meet (via Skype), she found time to teach me that lesson on a different day or at a different time. Cô Hằng is an excellent teacher, but she is also a great person.


The day I started studying at VLS in Hồ Chí Minh City was the first time I had ever been to Viet Nam; it was also the first time that I had ever been outside of the U.S. On the day that I left the city to travel to the Delta, cô Hằng wrote down for me some questions in Vietnamese that I could use to talk to taxi drivers and to buy bus tickets. She also gave me some advice about how to travel safely, and she told me to let her know when I arrived in Sóc Trăng. At that time, we had only known each other for a few days, but she was already caring for me like a close friend or a relative. I was nervous then about traveling, especially because my Vietnamese was not very good. She made me feel calmer, though, and better prepared to live and work in Viet Nam.


I owe her a lot, and I am grateful for everything she has done for me. Cám ơn cô rất nhiều!


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