One’s ability to speak and write using the English language can determine one’s position in the social ladder especially for countries like Vietnam where majority of the people do not speak the language but understand the importance of English for their ascent from a position of a lowly office clerk to the level of an international CEO. Most ambitious college students would spend time with you if they know you speak English well and that being with you will improve their vocabulary as well as their accent. A Vietnamese mother, who became a friend, even offered me a good bargain to stay in their house and pay only half of my current rent just so I can be with her children to practice their use of English. Although I have not decided yet whether I will accept the offer, the deal sounds fair enough considering that I am a scholarship boy who is trying to save every single dollar that I can.
Aside from that, it also widens social network as they are eager to strike a conversation with you or to become your friend. You get better service in cafes and even bigger serving of rice when you eat in food stalls. (Although they may charge you higher. This time, one’s knowledge of the local language comes in.)
Just this time, while I am writing this, I am overhearing a group of Vietnamese college students talking about this guy accessing their Wi-Fi who speaks English but is a Filipino. I am not anymore certain about the other aspect of the conversation as I am limited by my two-week-more-or-less old knowledge of the Vietnamese Language.
I was invited to several gatherings because they wanted to know this “Filipino boy” who wanted to learn Tieng Viet in a country where a corporate guy could easily pay 10-15 USD per hour just to learn English. And they’d even be more delighted if they find out that this boy taught Literature and Journalism in the University of the Philippines, subjects that use English as a medium of instruction.
In the Philippines where majority of the people can speak and write decent English, its human resources are at an advantage in a world market where almost all transactions are conducted and communicated using English. It’s not anymore fashionable to think that using English marks colonial mentality, that it is a vestige of American influences, or that it makes you less nationalistic.
My grade six teacher would be very delighted if I’ll share this experience with her as she was the first person who helped me appreciate the language (after my mother who is a high school English teacher). I remember her giving us vocabulary and pronunciation drills every Monday and a practical exam on Friday. “Someday you’ll thank me for doing this,” she would say every time we complained if the exercises started to become tiring.
And indeed I am.