‘What soup?’ or ‘What’s up?’

It’s been a week since one of the first classes since Khai Minh Language Center got its business license. Located in Tan Phu District, Hochiminh City or Saigon – Vietnam, the school has made its first steps to the education market in the city.

Since Doi Moi (Renovation) Policies are passed in Vietnam, plenty of foreign language centers  have been set up and till now in 2009 there are only around ten of them become famous in this industry in Saigon. They’re Vietnam US Society English, ILA, Cleverlearn, Duong Minh Language, Leecam, North America, Iwep, Vietnam American Training, Apollo, Outerspace,  and so on.

High end students prefer foreign-owned language centers, while most local ones fight severely in the price wars. Expensive centers use their “Western” fame and the inexpensive ones focus on training quality and student care efforts.

The teacher for Khai Minh’s first class seemed a little bit nervous a few minutes before the class started because two of the students hadn’t come yet. I told him to take care of his teaching  whatever may happen. The class’s there for him to teach.

Man, this guy has a really loud voice and he’s fun when explaining his lessons. He’s alright with his teaching but he has problem with his confidence or maybe he’s shy. Most people in Vietnam are born to be shy or they like to be. They’re very confident, relaxed and energetic with personal topics but become completely different when they do something more serious. They become more conservative and like or try to look shy at work. I think he can be better with a bit more confidence.

The night the day before yesterday he really shocked me when he showed the students how to say ‘what’s up?’ in a way I don’t know what to comment about. His ‘what’s up?’ turned to something like ‘what soup?’ Oh Gosh, how could he make such a mistake? He pronounced the ‘u’ in ‘up’ exactly the same way how it’s pronounced in Vietnamese – ‘ooh’. He didn’t know what he was doing so he repeated it at least three times.

He even astonished me more when he said ‘is’ like an ‘e’. This guy omitted the ‘s’ sound at the end of this verb. Most Vietnamese English speakers ignore or fail to pronounce English final consonants correctly how they’re spoken by the native friends. Perhaps people can say that it’s because of the mother their mother tongue hindrance, but a foreign language learner need to overcome it not to avoid it.

Before coming to Vietnam, you could be told by some friends living there that people in Saigon speak English very good. I doubt every meaning that can be inferred from that remark. You can find one or two really good English speaking Vietnamese among one hundred of them. They say it’s okay when foreigners can understand them; I say it’s better for these foreigner friends’ understanding with their better pronunciation.


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