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    Sunday, February 27, 2005

    Vietnamese English Class

    I just received an email from a good friend of mine, Ben Hamatake, aka Phuong, who lives down in Orange County, CA working as a Vietnamese interpreter.

    I served with Phuong as a volunteer missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from October 2000 to December of 2002. After that I returned back to school.

    Phuong sent me this link in the O.C. Register--second in circulation in SoCal behind the LA Times--talking about the ESL school the missionaries are running. (you need to register to view the article--registration's free--or comment and I'll put the text in the comments section).

    I can't begin to express how elated I feel. When I first went to Orange County, the Vietnamese didn't have a lot of options for English schools. THey could go to Coastline CC or some other places, but they always complained to me about the curriculum or the times the classes were offered. Good classes required money--something they didn't have--and teachers couldn't speak Vietnamese. So I spent the first six months of 2001 visiting ESL schools in the area, planning, and drawing up a curriculum. In September 2001, I enlisted the help of the other 11 Mormon missionaries called to serve the Vietnamese people and started "Lop Anh Ngu Mien Phi" (Free English Class). Yes, the name wasn't very original, but the blessing began. Sixty people showed up that first day. Things were hectic. I ran more laps around the church than ever before (we held it at the church).

    I have so many experiences from ESL class I wish I had time to share. Ultimately, before I left and handed over the job of principal to another missionary, we had three successful semesters, with over 250 active students per semester, teaching up to five classes on four different levels (ABC, Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced/Conversation). Our success caused people to open the door and greet us as "you're the guys who teach free english" when we proselyted rather than get the doors slammed in our faces.

    More importantly, I was able to bless the lives of countless Vietnamese-Americans. I made numerous friends who I still keep in contact with, worry about, visit, and chuckle when I receive a letter. I saw men and women, old and young, walk into our class knowing no english, and leave a year later with the ability to converse. I saw smiles on their faces as they told me of better jobs they wanted because of their new ability. When I left for Texas I cried as over 200 students surrounded me to thank me personally for what I and the other missionaries had done.

    Although I started this english school to bless the Vietnamese, it was they who blessed me with countless friends and aquaintences, experiences and memories, abilities to lead, organize, and speak Vietnamese, and most of all a deep and never-ending love for them, their families, and their culture. I changed more than they did, and I thank God every night for the opportunity I had in Southern California.

    Well, needless to say, it's three years later and the class is still going. I hear its a little smaller than it used to be because the missionary-teachers are not as numerous, but they're in the paper so things are going strong. We used to advertise on the radio, paper, and thousands of flyers across Westminster, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana. It looks like things paid off.

    If any readers are down in Little Saigon, drop on by and tell the teachers "hi" from Triet. And if you know someone that wants to learn english, take them too--it's free and its worth every minute.


    Anonymous said...

    Where is this Class located? Address? I would like to send some family members there to learn English.

    xanghe said...

    10332 Bolsa Ave
    WESTMINSTER , CA 92683
    Next to Trung Tâm Y Tế Bolsa
    Classes on Thursdays at 7pm and Saturdays at 11am.

    Hope you find it ok!

    Triet said...

    Thanks for leaving that address, Xanghe. I meant to email you for it, but exams are coming up and it slipped my mind.

    Anonymous said...

    is the class still open now? is the time still the same? one more question, does mr. Nhat (that's what the students called him, i don't remember his real name, and he's japanese american) still teach there?

    Triet said...

    Well, yes it's still going. Please see Xanghe's comment above about the times and days. It's not quite the same as when I started it, but I hear it's still very good -- maybe better.

    The only person who I think might be the "Mr. Nhat" that you refer to is none other than Xanghe himself. Although he taught with me, and doesn't teach anymore, he does frequent the church where the class is held, and you could probably meet him there