Most Vietnamese think the title of 'professor' is only granted to elderly lecturers and scientists who have devoted a large portion of their lives to academic research. It will, therefore, be a surprise for these observers to learn that Nguyen Ngoc Luu Ly was recently granted the title of 'associate professor' at the young age of 32. She spoke to Bui Tuyet about her inspirations and the reasons behind her success.
Inner Sanctum: What made you want to become a teacher? When did you first become interested in research?
My parents were French teachers who shared their extremely valuable knowledge and experiences of academia and life with me. Right from childhood, my home environment was very conducive to familiarising myself with the French language.
I loved studying a foreign language and nurtured the dream of becoming a teacher since then.
My family also has a tradition of carrying out academic research. My grandfather is the late professor Nguyen Lan, who was awarded the title of People's Teacher. My father, Nguyen Lan Trung, is a PhD and my uncles, including Lan Tuat, Lan Dung, Lan Cuong, Lan Hung, Lan Trang and Lan Viet, are professors in different fields. They all share a passion for research.
Therefore, as soon as I entered ULIS-VNU in 2009, I began conducting research on various topics, such as the female spiritual icons in Vietnamese temples, as well as the French accents that help the Vietnamese people to learn French.
After graduating from university in 2003, I joined the faculty to teach French. My passion for French, in particular, and research, in general, inspired me to continue studying and acquire a Master's degree and a PhD.
Inner Sanctum: What would you credit for your success in becoming an associate professor at 32?
I think I'm a lucky person as I've always had continuous support.
I have received support from both my family and my husband's family. My parents encouraged me to continue studying and researching every time my interest waned. In particular, my husband, who is also my closest friend since childhood, encouraged me to pursue my passion and develop my abilities. Every time I felt tired or stressed, he would play the guitar or piano and I would feel better.
Besides, my university, which is a prestigious research one for the study of languages, linguistics, international studies and related social sciences and humanities, has provided me with a favourable environment to introduce new teaching methods. My teachers and colleagues are also always willing to help me with my studies and research.
Inner Sanctum: Born into such a famous family as yours, have you ever felt the pressure to achieve?
Yes, of course. My brothers and sisters also feel that pressure, as did our grandfather, parents and uncles. To achieve success, one must try one's best. Knowledge cannot be acquired without hours of study and practice.
What has helped me, however, is that my family has a tradition of carrying out academic research, which helped me decide early in life what I wanted to take up as a career. My home was the ideal environment for us to learn and exchange views on researches.
Inner Sanctum: In your opinion, what are the important requirements to carry out research? What advice would you give young students who are interested in research?
I think the most important element of carrying out academic research is reading, especially when you are researching on linguistics. If you don't spend hours reading books and references, your abilities will be underdeveloped and your scientific thesis will be far removed from reality.
Young people should learn at least one foreign language and must constantly update themselves on the research developments around the world by reading newspapers, as well as books and references written in foreign languages. They should be confident in themselves and freely ask questions to their teachers and colleagues.
From my experience, I would advise young people interested in research to break their thesis into a series of small tasks, which reduces stress and makes the thesis more manageable.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell us about your future plans for academic research?
In the future, I hope my studies will be on interdisciplinary subjects. If I could integrate various subjects, such as French linguistics, economics and tourism, for instance, I believe my research will have more practical value for society. — VNS