I’m eating a bowl of bun cha by the lake in Tuyen Quang city and I’m amazed. Not because of the food in front of me, which is pretty tasty, but because of the student sitting across from me. One of my 10th grade History students invited me to lunch and is speaking English.

During classes at the gifted high school last year, I worked with 600 students with varying levels of English ability. Some were confident to speak up. Others were so shy trying to avoid making any mistakes that they rarely opened their mouths at all.

I had been in the city for 8 months and had never really heard this student contribute in class. But at Bun Cha, we were talking. We were laughing. There were some errors here and there, but I took a step back and thought whether it was more important that I correct every detail as we went along or allow this student to share his perspective with me for the first time?

The answer was simple.

To reverse the situation, whenever I went to the local market, I tried introducing myself to the vendors: “Em. Ten. La. Kyle. EM. TEN. (the vendor, confused, would stare at me.) Khong. Khong. TEENNN la Kyle.”A student guiding me at the market would impatiently add, “Anh ay da noi ten cua anh ay la Kyle.”
The vendor would laugh casually and offer me a kilo of dragonfruit for a “great” price.

During my year living in the north, I found something so basic, so common, as introducing myself to be a daily hurdle. I grew frustrated and sometimes refused to open my mouth at all. It’s easy to avoid being wrong in a language when you say nothing, right?? I was discouraging myself before I even began trying to improve. Yet, I was falling into the same trap as many of my students were when learning English.

For my students, I encouraged speaking. Period. Final. End of story.

Yes, pronunciation and grammar and vocabulary do play a part in the long-run of being understood, but I don’t think they do at the expense of general confidence and the willingness to say something at all.

In the same way that I need to speak up more often and possibly make mistakes when speaking Vietnamese if I’m going to improve my Vietnamese, then I hope my students continue speaking in English and possibly continue making mistakes.

If you’re ever in Ho Chi Minh and want to practice speaking without the fear of pronunciation judgment, let me know. We’ll grab a tra sua. I can make mistakes introducing myself in Vietnamese. You can make some pronunciation mistakes in English. We can learn together. It’s no problem. It’s No. Star. Where.

The Fulbright Everest Launchpad (FEL) was officially launched on July 03, 2017. This is a special scholarship, which provides a unique opportunity for the students to not only learn but also live and breath in English. From 1,215 submitted applications, Fulbright has chosen the brightest 40 students from different high schools all over the country to join FEL.

Ho Chi Minh City, July 03, 2017 – The Fulbright Everest Launchpad (FEL) was officially launched on July 03, 2017. This is a special scholarship, which provides a unique opportunity for the students to not only learn but also live and breath in English. From 1,215 submitted applications, Fulbright has chosen the brightest 40 students from different high schools all over the country to join FEL.

Each FEL student receives a full scholarship, which is worth VND 65 millions, including accommodations, transportation, and tuition fees. The scholarships are funded by Fulbright’s donor, Mr. Jack Tate. Jack Tate is the founder of the famous Baby Superstores chain in America. In the past 25 years, Mr. Tate has donated more than USD 25 millions for different medical and educational social projects.

“Fulbright is an important part in the development process of Vietnam. And a meaningful and essential element in this development process is to provide the Vietnamese students the opportunity to learn English, science, technology, math at an international-quality university. Vietnam needs to encourage the students to live and study in Vietnam so that they can contribute their talents to the growth of this country,” Mr. Tate shares. This is also the reason why he decided to support Fulbright, as well as to sponsor the FEL program.

“The Undergraduate program at Fulbright University Vietnam will be taught fully in English. And in order to learn completely in English, there needs to be preparations. To Vietnamese students, this is not an easy challenge, especially to the students in the far-away provinces.

Improving the English skill proves to be important, not only before receiving the offer to study at Fulbright, but also during their time at Fulbright. This is the pilot program for the young students, especially those in the provinces with fewer opportunities to learn English,” Dr. Dinh Vu Trang Ngan, Director of the Undergraduate program explains. This the the sole reason why Fulbright developed FEL.

To best prepare these students to learn English, Fulbright partnered with Everest Education to design a unique and innovative English program. The program combines both online and offline techniques to equip students with best, suitable learning methods no matter where they are, or what English level they have.

According to Tony Ngo, Chairman and CEO of Everest Education: “The education system in Vietnam is like chain production in a factory. Students are products, trained in the same speed and delivered the same result. Some tried to solve this predicament through online learning. Yet, it did not work very well with the students because technology cannot listen and understand each and every student; only a dedicated teacher can.”

Mr. Tony Ngo believes that the innovative blended learning of both online and offline methods will help utilize technologies and the teachers’ dedication. “Students will learn a concept of a particular topic at a suitable level, and with an appropriate speed for them.”

The FEL program will take place for 8 weeks, with two phases. During the concentrated English training phase, 40 students will live, learn and play together in an all-English environment in Ho Chi Minh City.  

During the distance training phase, the students will return home and study at their high school while continue with FEL through a highly interactive online program. Each student will be awarded with a laptop or a tablet with full learning documents, software and English learning program.