Foreign language of officials

For several decades now, many cadres who have been stealing schoolbags but have not been able to communicate smoothly with foreigners.

At the conference on human resource management in education in Thailand in 2010, I saw a Vietnamese delegation of more than a dozen people, most of whom are key officials of the ministries and provincial and municipal education departments. The Vietnamese delegation made a very special impression in the workshop. When delegates from all countries sat at the top, facing the rapporteur to listen, the Vietnamese delegation gathered in two separate groups at the end of the conference hall, holding their heads in to listen to the interpreter.

I noticed that the two members of the delegation had good English, and the rest of the dozen had to rely entirely on translators. By the time the Thai Education Minister shook hands with everyone at the reception, the Vietnamese officials gathered, looking miserable.

Recalling that workshop, I understood why the Ministry of Internal Affairs decided to implement the project "National Program of foreign language learning for officials at all levels". According to the announcement, if the project is successful, from 2030, 40% to 50% of district, provincial and central officials of the public service system will be able to work in an international environment; 15% to 20% of communal cadres and civil servants can use foreign languages ​​fluently. This will be a great condition for Vietnam to approach and integrate faster with the world. However, with my experience, I think that just by "fostering and improving foreign language skills for officials" is probably not enough.

The universalization of foreign languages ​​for officials in Vietnam is not simple. Not now that perhaps several decades have passed, many cadres stole school bags to learn English but communicating in foreign languages ​​with common sentences was difficult, not to mention communication and working in an international environment.

I have two younger brothers, like most bachelors and engineers in Vietnam, who graduate from university with English only at the "blind eradication" level. After graduation, both of them paid money to study English to apply for jobs. A then went to work in court, T. joined a foreign electronics company. T quit learning English because he was too busy. A still persisted in studying a foreign language until he passed the entrance exam to a civil servant, still proud of his English enough to pass the exam, without asking for any help.

A few years later, A was appointed to the position, he had to take an English test again, he came to me complaining, thanks to supplementing a few sentences to deceive at the speaking test. "I forgot how much I learned, now I can do a little bit of supplementing, but this work is so busy, I guess I won't be able to study in the beginning, I have to rely on you all," he said. Meanwhile, I found T talking in English quite naturally with his partner.

I want to emphasize the importance of the environment of using languages ​​in learning and maintaining the foreign language learned. Foreign languages ​​have easy to forget properties If there is no language environment, there is no internal motivation, if the study is only a few days, or a few hours a week, interrupted, sometimes attending refresher classes, studying forever will not bring about results. What fruits for the elderly to learn and work at the same time. Reading the draft proposal of the Ministry of the Interior, I wondered: how many cadres at the commune, district and even provincial level in Vietnam can use foreign languages ​​outside the classroom?

And if the project is implemented, how much effort and money will have to be poured to get the same result? There are people who can strive, can compete and achieve "standard", but keeping the standard, no one has ever discussed. The question is: if the language environment is not as good as expected, do civil servants at all levels need to know foreign languages? The answer is yes and no.

"Yes" for officials whose jobs are foreign, working in an environment where many foreigners live, travel or invest in businesses such as Ha Long, Da Nang, Binh Duong, Hanoi or HCM City. However, if they only do administrative work and receive people in small communes and districts, far from the center and do not have conditions to contact foreigners, the English requirement should only be secondary.

When I was in Germany, although the Germans were very good at English and I knew English, but in the papers I received, they always recommended, if I do not know German, go with an interpreter to the agency immigration or other public authority. My German is not good so I keep talking about papers so I switch to English. Most of the German officials spoke back to me in English, but they asked me to switch to German many times because German was the official language of their administrative transactions.

In Japan, where not all administrative officers speak English, even in large cities, it is common to recruit a few English-speaking officials in each department. These officials, when needed, will welcome foreign guests, take part in business trips and process documents in foreign languages.

In the current conditions of Vietnam, mass fostering and forcing foreign language testing staff to follow standards, no matter how good the standard is, is not appropriate. The first is in the personnel department at all levels. More than anyone, they know what positions, departments need people who know what foreign language and how to recruit, foster or transfer people who are likely to fit into that position. If they "miss out", they can also evaluate personnel according to the actual work results and make appropriate adjustments.

Today, we need foreign language professionals not only to handle foreign language documents and to welcome international visitors. They can also become an effective bridge to help people and businesses access, apply and experience good lessons and valuable experiences from abroad. In many cases, it is also a national prestige and image in international environments.

For foreign language enhancement projects to be effective, selective fostering should be conducted in parallel with encouraging staff to use or create a foreign language development environment for them. When foreign languages ​​actually have land to live in public offices, the capacity of the system will also improve.

Tran Thi Tuyet