If there’s one thing that struck me about the Vietnamese people in my recent trip to Vietnam (and there were many things, especially the friendliness of the people) it was their intense desire and capacity to learn.
In Hoi An I got talking to a young woman spruiking sales outside a restaurant. She spoke good English, enough to tell a joke, understand nuance and understand the power of communicating with these new tourists who are coming into the country nowadays. That’s where the future might be.
When I asked her where she’d learned English she told me that she’d learned it herself, from talking to tourists and soaking it up. She was desperate to learn more, asked me some finer points about pronunciation and was back out on the street, drumming up business for the family restaurant.
She was typical in lots of ways. Kids go to school and then go home to do some more work. And often have extra classes on the weekends. And a family business they’re working in. The two things that seem most critical are family and learning. In learning environments that we’d despair about there seems to me a quiet determination to learn.
Earlier on, at Ha Long Bay, we’d been taken on an excursion to a ‘floating village’, where fishermen and women supplement their precarious incomes now by showing boatloads of tourists around their ‘village’. There was a school in session too, recently bolstered with funds from a visiting Sydney school (Killara High School) and as I guiltily poked my head in (what teacher wants a stream of foreign visitors gawking around) I saw a purposeful, quiet collective effort of learning. There wasn’t a piece of technology in sight. And it was quietly inspiring.