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Former pharmacist, 92, star pupil

Update: March, 16/2016 - 09:00
Star pupil: Vũ Thị Sửu (centre) studies with other students in her class. — VNS Photo Đỗ Bình

Đỗ Bình – Hương Giang

HCM City — It’s never too late to learn something new.

Though Vũ Thị Sửu is now 92 years old, she spends much of her time perfecting her English skills.

A native of HCM City, Sửu, who speaks fluent French, was not satisfied with her level of English, so she decided to register in a course at the Journalism Foreign Language Centre of Vietnam News Agency.

She is the oldest and best student at the centre, and is known for her vast knowledge of foreign languages and Western culture.

Beside studying English in class, she spends time reading books at home to learn more about Western culture. Her house on Sương Nguyệt Ánh Street has many books in French and English.

Some people her age feel that learning a new language or deepening their knowledge is unnecessary, especially if their health is not in tip-top shape.

For Sửu, her hearing ability has weakened and her general health is far from perfect. However, though her eyesight is not as good as it once was and her legs move slowly, her voice is still strong and her mind still sharp.

“Knowledge is endless; learning is never enough for us. It’s important that we should choose one favourite area and follow it the rest of our life. I love studying about Western culture. In order to read those books, my foreign language skills must be good,” Sửu said.

For Sửu, learning helps her to overcome loneliness and prolongs her life. She has never married nor had children. Her nieces and nephew live in foreign countries.

Sửu is a student of teacher Gayle Yvonne Confer in the centre. Her class has 50 students, many of them about 50 years old.

Several students who began to attend the class after retirement said they would only quit only if Confer stopped teaching.

In her lectures, Confer often organises activities for students to practise English. Sửu is among the students who perform well despite her deteriorating health.

Confer, who left the US for Vieät Nam to teach English in 1995, said Sửu was the student who had impressed her most.

Sửu is learning English simply for enjoyment and enrichment, not to find a good job with a high salary.

“Not only me, but other students in the class see Sửu as an example for her learning spirit and her will. She has been studying in my class for 10 years and is always the best student in terms of knowledge and lifestyle,” Confer said.

Sửu, who has never skipped a lecture, is the most hard-working student she has ever met, she added.

Some young students in the class heard about the older student and were very curious to meet her. Some of them, who had enrolled only for fun, decided to invest more effort studying English after talking to Sửu.

Lê Thị Minh Thư, a nurse, who is one of Sửu’s classmates, is now a coordinator for an Australian project that trains nurses in Việt Nam, thanks to her English-language skills.

Thư said, “I am proud to be a classmate of Sửu, who is my grandmother’s age. I always see her as an example to follow.”

During the 1950s, Sửu worked as a pharmacist in the Đà Lạt Nuclear Research Institute, and then left for France and the US to work for several decades before returning to Việt Nam in 1965.

While abroad, she had no opportunity to practice Vietnamese, and in Vieät Nam she had few chances to practice a foreign language. But, after turning 70, she had the free time to realise her goal of studying Western culture.

Sửu is often visited by students who take classes in cultural studies or have an interest in the subject. She is determined to continue to learn as long her health holds up and Confer continues to teach at the centre, she said. — VNS

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