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Young linguists share passion for language

Update: April, 06/2014 - 14:27

Talented: Students listen attentively to Nguyen Ngoc Truong An's violin. — Photos Zing News

by Ha Binh and An Vu

You need to meet Nguyen Ngoc Truong An and Nguyen Hoang Khanh if you are fluent in English and think that is good enough.

They are amid a small number of Vietnamese who can speak more than two foreign languages. Some learn because they intend to study abroad, while others plan to travel around the world.

An, 16, speaks three foreign languages and Khanh, 24, is fluent in eight languages.

An, who is studying at Tran Dai Nghia High School, is always admired by her schoolmates because she can play six musical instruments and speak English, French and Japanese fluently.

An recalls that she began to learn English when she was five. However, she was exposed to English even before that when her father lulled her to sleep with songs of the legendary band The Beatles.

"I would swing my body and sing every word of the song though I did not understand the meaning. But I did not try to stuff English into my head. Instead, I listened to music, read English fiction and watched foreign movies. My pronunciation and skills developed naturally then," says An.

She says to get high grades in tests, she has one secret: absolute concentration. "When you are in the test room, you have to forget everything else to listen, read and think quickly. If you get distracted for a few seconds, you will miss the important keywords and will get affected badly. Choosing the test is also a strategy.

"If you are more interested in environment and cultural matters, I suggest you should pick the IELT. However, if you are more into academic things, you can choose TOEFL," says An.

Although this lovely girl was once the chairperson of the French club in her school, she is now learning Japanese to study abroad.

"I wish to study international relations. I fell in love with Japan's modernity, professionalism and tradition. Another reason is I am also a huge fan of manga and sushi," she adds.

An is also able to play six musical instruments. Yet, like anyone else, she had a difficult time learning them. "I practised over and over but the result was not so good. That really made me feel low. When I was in the sixth grade, I stopped by my friend's house and saw an old piano. That was the time I wanted to return to music. I sat down and played for three hours without pausing," she says.

Despite the fact that she is brilliant, the school girl appears modest when she shares her biggest dream: "I wish I could do something to help the community. To me, it is not too impractical. All I want to do is start a project by appealing to a small charity group to help poor people. I am luckier than many people, so during the recent Tet, I sent VND2.8 million of my lucky money to a charity organisation," adds the teenager.

The other 'language master', Nguyen Hoang Khanh, was born in 1990, and has just graduated from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities under of the Viet Nam National University in Ho Chi Minh City. Khanh can speak English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Russian and Chinese fluently.

Achievements: An is awarded a certificate of merit in recognition of her good academic record, active participation in community service and sports activities in the 2013-14 school year.

Khanh appeared simple and friendly as he met us at a tea shop near a language centre, where he taught English for six months after graduation. With a friendly smile, Khanh speaks about his "language path".

"When I entered the university, I knew how to speak English only and a few French words that my granddad taught me," he recalls.

Khanh says he came in contact with English in the sixth grade at Chu Van An High School, District 11.

"Those days, I accidentally got hold of an English dictionary and read from the first to the last page. On each page, I learnt the ways to pronounce the words and the grammar," says Khanh.

He admits that he later signed up to learn French as he is a great admirer of the Canadian singer Celine Dion.

"Before I decided to learn a new language, I researched carefully about its grammar, pronunciation and how to make sentences. With a thorough grasp of the background knowledge and having done my homework, I had more time to communicate with lecturers, ask them questions that even… Google cannot answer," says Khanh.

Thanks to this method, he had a lot of free time and so he registered to study three more languages at the centre. His schedule is almost full, as he studies English in the morning and attends Italian and Spanish courses in the afternoon. Besides these, French, Japanese, German and Chinese studies are also being planned in succession for the whole week.

"There are times when five to six websites of different languages are open on my desktop," he says.

In 2010, Khanh won an international in an Italian writing.

He says the most interesting part of being a linguist is the ability to see a problem with different perspectives.

"To know many languages will also helpful in travelling, as you can communicate in places where English is not spoken commonly. My plan is to look for a Master's scholarship in Portugal and then open a multi-lingual centre for youngsters with my savings," adds Khanh. — VNS

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