Who doesn't want to speak English fluently? Everybody wants to improve at least their speaking and listening skills. I have been to different learners from Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, to Vietnamese- they have been longing to improve their communication skills. They get depressed and frustrated not because they can't pass the short English courses in schools or language centers, but because they can't understand their favorite movies, and they are sick and tired of subtitles. How about the hopeless romantic ones who love to serenade in English? How about their self-esteem every time they are laughed at about their pronunciation lapses, wrong usage of words and expressions, bad written grammar, which results to a bad writing piece.
Vietnamese learners are hard to teach. Based on my two-year ESL experience in an IT university here in Ha Noi, I could say that every day is a challenge. It's hard to penetrate their ability and their capacity in learning the language. Linguistically, Vietnamese vowel and consonant sounds affect the learner's ability to cope with the pace in improving their listening, speaking, and writing skills. By the way, Vietnamese can perfect a grammar test, so they think that studying grammar in class is boring, and a waste of time.
According to what I have observed in their writing tests, most of them are dyslexic. They aren't aware of their spelling, and phonological processing. In addition, the way they pronounce is the way they write- for example, they pronounce "although" with a /t/ so definitely, it would be "althought" in their writing. This is one of the reasons why I always insist the students reiterate the proper sound, so they could produce a quality piece of writing. I also suggest they practice anytime, anywhere, by any means. But we shouldn't forget that "confidence level " affects Vietnamese learning ability. Most of them are afraid of talking to foreigners, and they always think that speaking English outside school is equivalent to being arrogant and egotistical, which is also true to most Asian learners. Thus, they never get the courage to express themselves in English.
In the university where I am teaching, general English is a pre-requisite. This is to prepare the students to understand the books that they will be using in their major subjects. In short, most of them just learn to pass the short ESL course to advance to major subjects; they never think that English is as important as those subjects, so the improvement gradually declines as they continue their journey to finish the course. Another factor that affects the rapid decline of the learners' ability is the medium of instruction. Teachers in their major subjects use their mother tongue in class. What's ironic here is that, all their books are in English. Well, as a concerned educator, I focus on the application rather than the theory. Though I don't always get the winning card, I am still looking forward to having them realize how important English is.