Thai language fever stirs in Vietnam

national March 10, 2014 00:00

By Chularat Saengpassa
The Natio

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Courses start in Hue,Guang Tri ; students drawn to salaries here

“Sawasdee krap, sawasdee khaa”, Nguyen thi Can Van, a student of Quangtri Vocational Secondary School, diligently recited in her Thai lesson. That was the first day that this electronics freshman and some 100 schoolmates began a 75-hour Thai course, which is part of a collaboration by their school and Nawamindharachini Vocational College in Thailand’s Mukdahan.
Nguyen thi Can Van, who was among the first registering for the course, said she was excited to learn Thai and even came earlier than usual to wait for the classroom to open. 
“I heard that a Thai teacher will come and teach us. I want to speak the language. I want to talk with Thais and I want to study in Thailand,” she said.
Tran Thi Ngoc Phuoc, who studied for a vocational diploma in clothing technology and dressmaking, is having fun reciting “Chan cheu, thur cheu, khao cheu” (my name is, your name is, his name is). She said she had never been to Thailand but learnt about the country via movies and the Internet. Thailand is a beautiful country so she wants to learn its culture and language. She wants to work there because salaries are much higher.
The Thai language teacher, Jintana Kaewsri, said she teaches English at her college but she’s interested in the Vietnamese language so she took courses at Sakhon Nakhon Rajabhat University’s language centre until she could read and speak fluently. 
“The Vietnamese students are very attentive in class and try hard to speak Thai,” she said.
Besides the Thai language course, the Mukdahan college also signed an agreement to develop vocational diploma programmes in electronics and auto mechanics. Starting in May, students will study Thai or Vietnamese for the first year before going to Thailand or Vietnam in the second year. The students would undergo an apprenticeship in the third year and return home to finish the programme. 
The 600-member Quangtri Vocational Secondary School in Quang Tri province will benefit from the Asean Economic Community (AEC) via the East-West Economic Corridor. Eager to prepare people ahead of the AEC, the Quang Tri City Council joined with the school to start granting scholarships in 2004 to Vietnamese students to study in Thailand.
Nguyen Thi Thao, a 27-year-old scholarship recipient, said she studied for a bachelor’s degree in marketing at Rajabhat Mahasarakham University in 2006. Six months before that, she studied Thai in Nakhon Phanom.
Nguyen Thi Thao, who got a partial scholarship, said Thai language proficiency boosted one’s career chances because many Thai companies are opening factories in Vietnam. If you remain in Thailand, you could work as a Vietnamese teacher like many of her friends, she said. 
She has also worked as a tour guide since her sophomore year because many Thais like to visit Vietnam. She said a company salary in Vietnam could go up to Bt4,000-Bt6,000 compared to Bt15,000 in Thailand.
Pham Quan Thin was among the first generation of students to study in Thailand in 2004 and also won a scholarship. Although he earned a diploma in construction technology at Sakhon Nakhon Vocational College and a bachelor’s degree in construction management at Ubon Ratchathani University, he worked as a tour guide when he returned to Vietnam. He also launched a Thai restaurant and co-founded an alumni association for Vietnamese in Thailand. There are some 400 such alumni.
Cao Tien Hai, a Vietnamese teacher at Nawamindharachini Vocational College, said he didn’t get a degree in Thailand, but attended a six-month Thai course here before landing the teaching job. Besides good jobs in Vietnam or Thailand, Vietnamese who can speak Thai can also work in Laos, as Thais and Laotians speak a similar tongue. 
The Mukdahan college also collaborated with Msc Cung Trong Cuong, rector of Hue Industrial College, in two programmes in auto mechanics and electronics. The Vietnamese college, which has 7,000 students, wanted to open four joint programmes, including tourism and hospitality and technology, but both sides agreed on the two programmes first. 
Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang, who recently presided over the inauguration of a Thai-Vietnamese vocational education centre at Hue Industrial College, said he and Chaiyaphruek Serirak, chief of the Vocational Education Commission, discussed with Professor Fham Vu Luan, the Vietnamese minister of education and training, about vocational education management. 
The two countries had many projects such as teaching and learning quality development for the Programme for International Student Assessment because Vietnam was highly successful in Pisa tests. Besides the vocational college cooperation, they also would set some ministry-level cooperation. Vietnam should nominate teachers for the Princess Maha Chakri Award, he added. 
Chaiyaphruek said Vietnam wanted to cooperate with Thailand especially in vocational training because they had the same problem that students weren’t interested in vocational programmes. Vietnam also was concerned that many skilled workers would move out of the country after the AEC, leading to a shortage of skilled workers.

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