Hello from Hanoi

Published on 16th May, 2011 in Global Bloggers by Scott Shelton

Continuing our series of Global Blogs, we have a new blogger starting with us this week. Scott Shelton is based in Vietnam and will be posting about his Global experiences from there for the next few weeks. Scott continues …

Hello readers!
I’ve been involved in ELT since 1990 when I took the plunge and dedicated three months to a CTEFLA course at St. Giles College in my native San Francisco, California. Over the years I’ve taught in many different countries and climes: Spain (my second home), The USA, England, New Zealand, Tunisia, Jordan, and for the past 18 months Hanoi, Vietnam.

I work for the British Council here in Hanoi, a medium sized (and growing) teaching centre and where the majority of our students are Vietnamese nationals. It’s a lively teaching centre open seven days a week, with teachers on two shift patterns teaching five days a week. There are approximately 20 full- and part-time teachers. We have a maximum of 18 students per class, most of which are at or near capacity.

Why Global?
Last year the management team began to look at alternative course books and began a change to a modular syllabus. Global was first on my list of recommendations as I’d been fortunate enough to work with two of the authors in past jobs and was sure that the teaching material would be excellent. Once the teaching centre began to have a serious look at the sample materials, it was decided that Global, as a course book series, would be the best choice among the many piloted. We are still in the process of incorporating it across all levels here, mostly due to the complications and time required to import books into Vietnam, but those classes using the new course appear to be enjoying it – according to staffroom comments anyway!

My students
Of the classes I teach, only one is now using the new course – an adult pre-intermediate mixed-nationality class which I enjoy teaching, and who meet twice a week in the mornings for a two-hour class. Although most of our students are Vietnamese, these morning classes are popular with the ex-pat crowd, often partners of foreign nationals who work here. This particular class is made up of Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese learners, all of whom are women except for one unsuspecting young man.

The major challenges to my mind which arise are grouped around pronunciation in general, lack of fluency (the two are often linked), a lack of awareness of lexical chunking and generally a more creative approach to language use. Adults especially tend to have a decent grounding in grammatical awareness but, due to the type of schooling they may have had in the past, rote learning is the approach most have been exposed to. For this reason, a considerable amount of learner training is the order of the day, as many students encounter difficulties grappling with the more eclectic, communicative approach of our courses. It’s fair to say that communicative competence for our learners is our end goal, combined with cultural awareness of the UK and other English-speaking countries and communities, as many plan to pursue further education abroad.

To date, with the morning class using Global Pre-Intermediate, we’ve worked with the material in the second unit, which is based on the loose topic of food and drink (lots to delve into there!). We have just had a spring break for the past two weeks. When we return to class this coming Tuesday we’ll start off with the unit of work based on the topic of work and leisure and see where that leads us.




  • Hi Scott and thanks for participating! I look forward to reading your posts here. I like your comment about the “unsuspecting young man”, sounds pretty par for the course for language classes around the world actually. All the best with it.

    Lindsay Clandfield on 17 May, 2011
  • Hi! well, I also have some experience overseas, today working at a trainee school for teachers of english…
    and i have to teach pronunciation and intonation techniques..how do you manage there? thanks a lot,hope you answer it. Eva

    Eva on 2 June, 2011
  • Hi Eva,

    My apologies for the delay in commenting on your question. First of all let me suggest two books that you might find useful for reference. One is, “The language teacher’s voice”, http://www.developingteachers.com/books/review_tltv.htm
    which outlines some very original ideas for working with intonation. Secondly, “English pronunciation in use”, http://www.developingteachers.com/books/review_epiu2.htm
    has very detailed exercises for teaching pronunciation, across many areas.

    I don’t have a “one fits all” approach to teaching pron. It really depends on where the learners are at. However, models, contrastive phonemes and drilling are often starting points at the phoneme level. Limericks, poems and songs are also great as they easily lend themselves to rhyme and meter. If you have an outgoing group, singing in English, for the reasons mentioned above, can really work nicely.

    If you have the tools, have students record a short message and ask another pair to transcribe it – paying careful attention to the sounds. This may raise awareness of how they are actually producing sounds, and listening to another might make it more interesting. Doesn’t everyone have a recorder on their mobile nowadays?

    Just a few thoughts I hope you find interesting.

    Best of luck,

    Scott Shelton on 6 June, 2011