English class of American war veterans

(VOVworld) – Every Wednesday, classroom B in Hanoi Industrial College rumbles with conversations in English and the laughter of teacher Paul George Harding and his students. Paul was a veteran during the American war in Vietnam. Remembering the fierceness of the unjust war he participated in, Paul has returned to Vietnam to organize free English class for the Vietnamese.

English class of American war veterans - ảnh 1
Teacher divides his students into groups to practice pronunciation

Teacher Paul opened his free English class in December, 2014, for students, children, and the elderly. He helps them improve both listening and speaking skills. Pham Thanh Son is a senior student in the class. “I’m 60 years old. This class is interesting and practical. The teacher helps everyone correct pronunciation and mistakes. He is cheerful. He has diverse ways to help us remember the lessons.”

Paul said he was obsessed by the time he was stationed in Lam Dong province. He returned to Vietnam two years ago with a wish to do something for the local people. “By some odd coincidences, I read Dang Thuy Tram’s dairy and that was what really inspired me to take action and come here. I’ve never worked so hard in my life, and I’ve never had so much fund, the best job I’ve ever had even though I don’t get paid for it. I yet paid, you know, I got paid in my heart.”

English class of American war veterans - ảnh 2
Paul's students are of different ages

Paul’s lectures discuss everyday life as well as Vietnam’s history. He often goes to the library to collect materials for his lectures. Paul said he likes reading books about Vietnam’s heroes such as Ho Chi Minh, Nguyen Van Troi, and Dang Thuy Tram.

Paul said: “I had the good fortune of finding the biography of Nguyen Van Troi, which was written by his widow. So we had very good information and we incorporate that into our lesson plan and tried to use him as an example of the way you live your life and try to have strength and courage, and dedication and patriotism that he did. We also celebrate Dang Thuy Tram, the week of her birthday in November. We’ve had our classes dedicated to her, again remind our students of what sacrifice people made and try to encourage them to be more self-sacrificing and think about the big picture.”
Voluntary teachers from Canada, Germany, and Australia, and the Vietnamese students themselves are happy to assist Paul’s teaching. Nguyen Thanh Phong is one of them. “He brings all his energy and enthusiasm into his lectures. He wishes more Vietnamese can speak English. My English capability has improved significantly after studying in his class in one year and now I’m his assistant.”

Despite health issues, 70-year old Paul takes class every Wednesday. He said he will stop teaching when he is no longer fit to do so. Student Nguyen Thu Phuong said: “The teacher was not born in Vietnam but he has a great love for Vietnam, its people, and its history. He is a respectful teacher.”
With family support, teacher Paul said he will not promise to return to the US. He will continue his work in Vietnam and share his inspiration with the Vietnamese people.