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Culture shock and life ‘not only pink’ through stories of American students

Pham Tran Kien (SN 1994) graduated with a degree in Education, University of Wisconsin-Superior in the US and a master’s degree in languages ​​from the University of Canberra, Australia. In early 2019, Tran Kien returned home to found the English Expert Vietnam Center for IELTS test preparation and English teaching in Hanoi.

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Pham Tran Kien, Founder at English Expert Vietnam.

“Cultural shock” for a lifetime

Having set a goal to study in the US as soon as she was in 9th grade, she was determined to learn English by herself and achieve 6.5 IELTS. With unremitting efforts, in 2010, a Hanoi-born male student went to the US to study at Morrisville-Eaton High School, New York.

I thought that a score of 6.5 IELTS in Vietnam would help Kien communicate well with native speakers, but “life is not like a dream”. The fast speaking speed of native speakers makes it difficult for Kien to catch up. At first, unlike other international students who often learn about American culture and customs to easily integrate into the new environment, Kien chose to avoid and separate from everyone.

She lives with her adoptive parents, but instead of connecting with them through meals or meetings at the end of the day, she locks herself in her room with her computer or plays basketball alone. In the US, people often have a meal in the early morning, sharing stories with each other, and Kien often “dodges” this meal. “I have a hard time speaking and responding in English in the morning, which is really strange”a former American student confided.

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Every day, Kien gets up at 6 a.m., takes the bus for more than an hour to go to school. High schools in the US start at 8 o’clock. Many days, Kien sat in the car, studying while crying. For the first half year, every day Kien just wanted to return to Vietnam. At home, he was a “powder boy”, being pampered, but when he went to the US, Kien’s life changed completely.

One of the biggest shocks that Kien realized in his first year studying abroad was that not all Americans were friendly. It happens often that you are talked down about because of your skin color, how you dress, or even… your glasses. Some of Kien’s friends had to leave the country after only a few months because they could not stand this discrimination.

It took a long time for Kien to realize this, and accept the fact that one personality type cannot be attributed to everyone.. “This acceptance has helped me improve my mental health, being able to ignore the teasing, simply because those people don’t deserve my concern.” Kien said.

Because of “culture shock”, Kien realized that he had missed out on what he wanted before coming to the US: Improve his communication ability, which is understanding the language from learning about his culture and customs. local person.

Male international students began to focus more on their studies, registering to join Toastmasters New York – a popular English-speaking club in the US. Kien gradually gave up the habit of going home to hold his laptop and go to the kitchen to talk with his American adoptive mother to learn how to use natural words. He also spends time repairing cars with his adoptive father to learn advanced vocabulary.

Every day, 9x rides bicycles with his neighbors to learn more how to talk to young people. Since then, Kien’s English has improved faster than expected.

In 2012, graduating from high school with honors with a GPA of 3.6/4.0, Kien won a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He chose to study economics because he followed the crowd and did not have to come from love. In 2014 he switched to majoring in education.

Bloody lesson

After graduating with a degree in education from the University of Wisconsin-Superior, Kien returned to Vietnam to teach English in Hanoi. In 2018, Kien continued to study in Australia for a master’s degree in language teaching.

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Kien is teaching English in Vietnam.

After many years of learning English, mastering how to teach English, Kien realizes that English is not a difficult or easy obstacle for the majority of learners. “It is not difficult because in my experience, when I find the right way to study, the level will improve. It’s not easy because most learners now don’t want to wait, they want to become English superstars right away.” said the young teacher.

A lot of people don’t want the process, just want the results, and think they can cram a huge amount of language into their heads in a short amount of time. Because of such a “fast, strong” way of thinking, materials and banners like “5 structures to help you immediately speak English like a native”, or “in 1 month I got 6.5 IELTS like how” attracts a lot of attention from beginners.

Kien doesn’t think the material is bad, but they only show the end point, not the starting point. This makes many people mistaken that the people who just got that point also had the same starting point as me now.

For Kien, English is very different from Math and Physics. It is essentially a language, not a subject. English should be treated as a “new friend” that we want to be close to. As a new friend, everyone has to be gentle, learn about you, listen a lot and let you speak, absolutely not in a hurry, rush forward, you are afraid that you… run away.

Language exams basically test learners on 4 “legs”, in which 2 passive skills are Listening – Reading, and 2 active skills are Speaking – Writing. All four skills need to be practiced slowly and scientifically. In the early stages of language learning, Listening and Reading should be prioritized. Listen a lot so that the ears get used to the way the language is spoken, Read a lot to gradually accumulate vocabulary and get used to the writing style.

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