Vietnamese language class in Kawagoe

NDO – For Vietnamese people living and working abroad, just listening to Vietnamese in the foreign land, the nostalgia for their homeland becomes more earnest. However, due to many different conditions, the generations of Vietnamese born and raised abroad face many difficulties in learning and maintaining Vietnamese. In this context, the establishment of a Vietnamese language class in Kawagoe, Japan, is an interesting story about the admirable efforts of Vietnamese mothers who are trying to teach and maintain Vietnamese for their children so that young Vietnamese people there can have a connection to their homeland.


Nhan Dan Newspaper shares the story on opening a Vietnamese class of a Vietnamese mother living in Kawagoe, Japan.

“I was lucky!”

“Once I happened to reopen old videos in my phone, I heard the chirping voice of my daughter when she was in Vietnam at just over three years old. Short poems such as "Green cabbage", "Little duck" or songs like "Goodbye doll" and "I love my grandmother” resounded in the pure and immature voice. A regret suddenly rose up in my heart. I realized that I had lost something precious: my daughter’s Vietnamese…”.

The cherry blossom season in April 2019 is when I started planning the opening of a small Vietnamese class for Vietnamese children aged six years and older living around Kawagoe, in Saitama Prefecture, Japan. The classes’ lessons are designed based on the contents of textbooks from Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), mainly books of Vietnamese and Writing Vietnamese. I teach children from grade 1 to grade 5 and beyond.

With regards to managing and operating a classroom, I was really confused. Fortunately, I have attended the classroom of my daughter who was in first grade at a Japanese elementary school, and I learned how the teacher managed a classroom of children who could not sit still for a long time. Regarding the venue for the class, from the beginning, I wanted to organize a free class for students. Each week I spend about 10 hours to prepare lessons and teach. Therefore, I wanted to find a study location near the train station for transportation, adequate facilities for the children to feel comfortable, and most importantly free of charge.

I was fortunate to receive the support of Kawagoe City and I was provided free use of an International Center’s classroom for two hours every Sunday afternoon. So, I had it all! Through a facebook group of Vietnamese moms in Japan with over 20,000 members, I sent a notice about Vietnamese classes in Kawagoe. Teachers, students and parents met in a friendly and warm atmosphere at the first class on July 28, 2019.

Efforts for each lesson

The students in the class had limited communication ability and a very small vocabulary so their ability to express themselves was much simpler than their peers in Vietnam, so I had to quickly change the lesson plan, add more auxiliary materials to enrich their understanding of life, nature, food, regions, and the history of the country. For example, in a textbook, the vocabulary is introduced as: cá rô (perch), quả me (tamarind), quả khế (starfruit) or bẹ cau (spathe of the areca tree) which are things the students have never seen or heard of, and probably will rarely use.
At first, I was eager to set a goal for the class: reading and writing fluently, so I was hasty to teach practicing writing and rhymes. But the students’ ability to speak was completely "dormant" because Japanese completely dominated their daily lives and studies.

After each week, when meeting again, my students and I tell each other about what happened during the week, the delicious food that was eaten, the new items purchased by parents, the achievements or even the sad memories. This is my favorite moment because I will listen to the lovely Vietnamese language of overseas Vietnamese children.

Vietnamese language – Connecting wire

Each week has only two hours of class time, so I created an additional programme of 30 minutes per day, seven days per week, for the parents to study with their children daily. This functions as homework for both the parents and the children to maintain the habit of studying and using Vietnamese. I feel greatly encouraged by the efforts of families to participate in the class. Some families live far away; every week the whole family drives for an hour to take the children to class. In the evening after the children go to bed, the moms join the class’ chat group to send each other videos on learning to read, learning to write or simply to share stories about their children.

I understand that Vietnamese parents have tried and worked hard to build a life in Japan. We can work 10 to 12 hours a day and we worry about our children’s futures. But we forget that it takes only 30 minutes a day for us to help our children keep the Vietnamese language – the most effective and longest lasting connecting wire between children and their parents, grandparents and siblings, as well as with their homeland.

The Vietnamese class is a place where we meet, encourage, and urge each other to maintain this determination. We changed ourselves first, by repeating the habit of using Vietnamese in daily communication within the family. Because families are a small environment in which to communicate in Vietnamese with our children. We have done it together and will continue to keep Vietnamese for our children.