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Growing numbers of people who need to connect with locals at work or just want to learn the community are attracted by language classes.

A new client in Hanoi’s Dom café may be shocked to see four non-Vietnamese sitting around a table in Vietnamese and talking to each other. The sight, however, is hardly a surprise for regular visitors to the Dao Tan Street café, where many expatriates come for Vietnamese lessons every day.

For a year, Daniel Nyilas, one of the four, learned Vietnamese from a private tutor and tried to further develop his language skills with the community.

Instead of talking like a monkey with my paws, I just have a need to understand locals more, “the Hungarian, 31, told VnExpress International.”

In a country that is continuously opening up its economy to the world, Nyilas is among a growing number of foreigners aspiring to learn Vietnamese for their job or just everyday conversation.

Every year, Vietnam receives billions of dollars in foreign direct investment, bringing in foreign executives who need to learn Vietnamese to connect with their local workers. Samsung, one of Vietnam’s largest international firms, wants its managers and specialists from South Korea to study Vietnamese for a year. For their communication ability, they are regularly tested.

Vietnamese language centers are attracting a growing number of students for this purpose. Nguyen Thi Phuong Dung, general manager of 123 Vietnamese, said that new students sign up every week, but there are periods during the year when the center has to drive some of them away, despite having nearly 80 part-time and full-time teachers.

The center, which has 600 students in six cities and provinces, receives frequent requests for classes to be organized near industrial areas where Japanese and Koreans work.

Dung said: “The market is immense and there are places we have not reached. We want to expand.”

Vo Thi Thanh Binh, director of HCMC-based Vietnamese Language Studies, said that year after year, the number of foreigners coming to her center has increased and last year it reached 670. There are also research students, besides those who come to learn Vietnamese for work, who need to understand Vietnamese for their projects.

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But it’s not easy to learn Vietnamese. Beginners, even intermediate students, have trouble with pronunciation and tones, said Nguyen Thanh Lan of the Tieng Viet Oi language class.

“At any stage, foreign students struggle because Vietnamese often speak quickly. Many students can not even recognize words they know because of the tones.”

Nyilas acknowledges these difficulties. Because of the difficulties, he has been studying “on and off” for around a year after being in Vietnam for over two years. “At first, it wasn’t satisfying. Because of my pronunciation, even though I understood what I wanted to say, people wouldn’t understand me. I had little success at the beginning.”

And foreigners with strong links to locals have a tough time learning the language.

Greg Ashby, 37, a Briton, is married to a Vietnamese man and lives in Da Nang, but because his wife’s English is very strong, they don’t always speak Vietnamese. “Listening is a challenge. They still speak so quickly when I talk to my wife’s relatives, I can only get a word here and there.”

Some students are having difficulties making time for the classes. Nine months after moving to Hanoi from the U.S., Marshall Presnick, 49, took his first Vietnamese lesson, but his busy English teaching schedule prevented him from becoming a committed student.

He said, “I’ve been living in Spain for three years, and in Spanish, I can say what I want. But with Vietnamese, that’s not the case, while I’ve been here for seven years.”

He, like many others, though, has persevered. To strengthen his Vietnamese, he takes daily classes to show that he cares for his fiancée and her culture.

When he visits his future parents next week, he intends to test out his new vocabulary.

“I think Vietnamese should be learned by those who spend more than a year in Vietnam. When you do, life is just easier.”

Link Source : https://e.vnexpress.net/