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Influential Vietnamese teacher of English carves success out of passion



Despite his training in biotechnology, Nguyen Thai Duong, hailing from Ho Chi Minh City, made a bold choice to become an English teacher and has been riding a wave of success and popularity as a key opinion leader by using hit songs to teach vocabulary and packing his classes with fun.

The 30-year-old man, widely known as a teacher with innovative teaching methods and an influencer on social media, strives to pique interest and gives inspiration in teaching and learning English, mostly lexical items, through viral tunes.

His recent in-person show was a big success, during which he shared tips on how to learn English effectively through singing and dancing with nearly 350 of his hardcore fans.

The event was also an occasion for the young influencer, who has 97,000 followers on Facebook, to look back at his pursuit of language teaching.

A Google search with Duong’s full name as the keyword brings back nearly 2.7 million results.

Graduating top in biotechnology from Ho Chi Minh City University of Science in 2013, Duong realized his heart lies elsewhere.

The more he was immersed in English, the more he realized teaching the language is his life’s passion.

After weighing the pros and cons of a career move to English teaching, he made a bold decision not to pursue postgraduate education or become a scientist in biotechnology.

Without a background in language teaching, Duong signed up for a second-degree program in English linguistics and literature at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Upon graduation with a second university degree, he also obtained a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate awarded by the Ho Chi Minh City University of Education. 

The two colleges are the city’s most prestigious institutions in English linguistics and pedagogy.

Gradually, Duong built his image and came to establish himself as an inspiring teacher, singer, and composer.

The versatile teacher spared no efforts in piquing people’s interest in learning English, and sharing tips for them to effectively take up the language, particularly vocabulary.  

Duong has gained popularity after sharing his video clips featuring English lessons creatively delivered on the catchy, viral tunes or his own songs, with lyrics adapted to match the lesson content.

Although it all simply started, his video clips have caught viewers’ attention for his eye-catching choreography and warm singing voice.

Many of his video clips have garnered millions of views each, turning him into a media personality who has appeared on national television channels including Vietnam Television (VTV) and Ho Chi Minh City Television (HTV).

The young teacher has put all of his pride and love for his hometown into his work, using his own childhood memories.

“I was born and raised in this city, which I hold dear to my heart. I’m lucky to have fond childhood memories, so I refer to them all as ‘Saigon9X,’ Duong shared.

Despite his growing popularity, the man said he has no intention to enter the local show industry.

“It’s quite unusual that an English teacher puts on his own show,” Duong admitted, referring to the success of his recent show.

“I organized the show just to satisfy my love for singing,” he noted, adding his main source of income comes from the English classes he offers at his own language center.

Duong also holds exchanges across the country to boost his real-life interaction and showcase his own pieces about Saigon9X.

“Of course, what my fans come for are mainly the methods and tips on learning English I’ve shared with them,” he said.

The young teacher shared he was quite moved at the influx of thank-you messages from his viewers.

Duong said he has never regretted his career choice, not even once.

“In fact, I’m so grateful. If I were a scientist now, I myself, my students and even other scientists would feel regretful,” he gleefully said as he recalled the milestone in his career.

He said he has applied the acquired knowledge in science to his artistic work to make it more logical and go smoothly.

The teacher revealed he always has a full plate, with his own family and language center to care for and new songs to compose and perform apart from being an influencer.

The roles, however, have taken him time to indulge in his hobbies, including playing soccer, watching films, and reading novels.

Duong admitted his first steps were met with countless immediate failures, which he said he could learn a lot from.

“They always meant something. I poured tons of money into branches of my language center, to no avail,” he recalled.

It later dawned on the aspiring man that launching a foreign language branch is not like opening a coffee shop.

“We basically need the same recipes and ingredients for the same products at a coffee shop,” he noted. 

“On the contrary, humans play a central role when it comes to launching a foreign language center branch.”

Duong revealed there are quite many challenges in rewriting songs to match what he wants to teach.

“Besides a match in melodies and rhymes, catchy content and a captivating way to deliver knowledge are also needed,” he remarked.

“What comes out next must also be better than its predecessors.”

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Vietnamese university provides cash for students to pay for Internet after shift to remote learning



Students of a law university in southern Vietnam will receive monetary aid totaling over US$100,000 for their switch to online learning due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Ho Chi Minh City University of Law on Monday announced its plan to support their students who have shifted from in-person classes to remote learning because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accordingly, the school will grant VND200,000 (US$9) to each student.

That means it will spend a total of about VND2.4 billion ($104,000) on this plan, as it now has some 12,000 students.

Learners will receive this support directly through their class president when they go back to school, the university said.

“All of our students have switched to online learning,” said Tran Hoang Hai, the school’s acting rector.

“We will notify them at least three days in advance before they are required to go to school for normal classes again.”

The cash support is aimed at helping them pay for Internet use charges during their online classes, Hai explained.

The university has conducted its online learning programs for all students since May 10, using its online training portal and Zoom software.

The higher education institution will provide students with papers they need from now until they return to normal studies, and those who have such needs are required to make online contact with the school’s academic affairs office for instructions.

“We have assigned the school’s center for business relations and student support to proceed with a plan to help students in difficult circumstances get loans to buy laptops at affordable prices for use in their online learning,” the acting rector said.

The university will try to obtain loans with deferred repayment terms and to find suppliers of computers or smartphones at the cheapest possible prices for such students, he added.

Vietnam has confirmed 1,205 domestic coronavirus infections in 26 provinces and cities since April 27, when a fourth wave broke out after the country had spent roughly a month detecting no community transmission, according to the health ministry’s data.

Ho Chi Minh City has reported only one case in this wave so far but schools and non-essential businesses have been shuttered as a safety precaution.

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In Vietnam’s Thua Thien-Hue, monk helps students prepare for life-deciding exam



A young monk from Thua Thien-Hue Province has been tutoring students in Vietnamese literature in preparation for Vietnam’s national high school graduation examination for free to nurture his passion for teaching

Every Thursday and Sunday, monk Minh Giang of Huyen Khong Pagoda in Huong Tra Town holds an afternoon class for around 20 students.

At the same time, via Facebook and YouTube, hundreds of other students nationwide attend his virtual lecture. 

Before being ordained, monk Minh Giang used to teach classes for vulnerable children in Hanoi.   

After entering the monastic life, he was urged to do something that nurtures his passion for teaching and helps students. 

“At first, I taught only monks and nuns and shared videos of my lectures on YouTube and Facebook which were warmly welcomed by students,” said monk Minh Giang. 

“Some people suggested that I ‘take one step further’ by opening an in-person, public class.

“I decided to give a try.

“It was also when students started studying online due to COVID-19.”

To maintain the class, monk Minh Giang has spent time on developing the syllabus, doing in-depth research and also updating his lectures to make them more insightful and relevant. 

Therefore, he requests his students to be hard-working, proactive, and independent in learning. 

“As I am young, I want to devote my time and energy to serving people, especially in helping students pass the exam,” he said. 

“It is my happiness.

“I am planning to offer other courses on history, geography, and civic education in the near future.”

The national high school graduation examination is held annually by the Ministry of Education and Training.

Students consider it a life-changing exam because it is also used as a college placement test.

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Ho Chi Minh City closes schools over latest COVID-19 threat



K-12 schools in Ho Chi Minh City will be closed down from Monday next week for fear of COVID-19 spread, the municipal People’s Committee said in a fiat on Thursday.

The closure is to be enforced even when only one local case has been recorded in the city since the coronavirus re-emerged in Vietnam last week.

Preschools will shut down from Monday while other levels will switch to remote learning, according to the fiat.

The 2020-21 school year is scheduled to end within this month in accordance with a plan by the People’s Committee.

More than 91,000 teachers, employees, and students left and returned to Ho Chi Minh City during a four-day holiday starting on Friday last week, the local Department of Education and Training said on Wednesday.

One employee and 14 students flew on the same flight as a COVID-19 patient in Dong Nai Province, which borders the city.

They live in Phu Nhuan District, Tan Binh District, Tan Phu District, Binh Thanh District, District 1, District 5, and Thu Duc City.

“Those people have been quarantined and had their samples taken for COVID-19 testing,” the department said.

The department has also identified 134 people who came into direct contact with these 15 and asked them to self-isolate at home.

Vietnam has confirmed 120 domestically-transmitted cases in at least 17 provinces and cities since April 27, when the virus made a comeback after the country had spent over a month detecting zero local infections, according the Ministry of Health’s data.

Only one of the patients was registered in Ho Chi Minh City.

Health workers have warned the city is at high risk as it is a busy economic hub, while border jumpers from China and Cambodia, which is grappling with severe outbreaks, have been detected there over the past few weeks.

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