VietNamNet Bridge – The story that Lai Van Sam, an experienced MC, wrongly interpreted the words of a famous actor at the latest Vietnam International Film Festival, has been told among the public as a regrettable incident. However, many English experts say the incident is understandable, because Sam has not experienced many English training courses. Even those students, who get high marks in international English tests (TOEFL or IELTS) also make fatal mistakes when communicating with English native speakers.
Tung, who graduated from two universities in Vietnam, obtained a scholarship to study in the US for masters degree. He was very self-confident about his English skills. Before leaving for the US, Tung got a 610 point TOEFL and a 600 point GMAT certificates. However, he still had many troubles during the time he stayed in the US, mostly due to his English.
Tung related that one day, he had to make a call to open gas and electricity accounts for his newly rent flat. However, trouble occurred: the US officer could not catch the simple information about Tung (names, address…), though he tried to explain many times. Finally, the U.S officer had to ask another officer, a Vietnamese, to talk directly with Tung to get the information.
After that, Tung decided to spend money to hire an American to talk with him everyday on phone, so that Tung can get familiar with the native speaker’s tone.
After Tung finished the training course and got his MBA, he applied for a job in the U.S. The recruiter, though highly evaluating his qualifications, had to refuse offering Tung an opportunity. The problem was that the job required Tung to communicate with customers regularly and errors in pronunciation would spoil the image of the company.
Can, a student in Belgium, also has an unforgettable memory. Right after arriving in Belgium, Can decided to go out and forgot to bring passport. Therefore, Can could not show his passport to the police who were on a patrol on that day.
Instead of saying “I don’t bring my passport with me now” to explain, Can said “I don’t have passport”. As the result, Can was put in temporary detention. Finally, the school, where Can plans to study, sent a letter to the police, certifying that Can is a student of the school and requested to free Can.
Hoai Thu, an English lecturer at a famous university in Hanoi, related that in the first days in the UK, she could not understand British people. “I could only understand the professors in the lecture hall, but I could not understand people at the markets,” she said.
At McDonalds shops in the US, salesmen always ask “For here or to go?”. Many foreigners cannot understand the question, including British people, because they say “take away” instead of “to go”.
Five years ago, when speaking was not a compulsory exercise on the TOEFL exam, Vietnamese students could easily get high marks for the listening, reading, and writing sections, because they studied English very hard and they were very good at grammar.
In the last few years, speaking has become a compulsory part of TOEFL exam. However, the TOEFL markers are professional judges, and they get used to listening to foreigners. Therefore, in many cases, they can guess what the speakers want to say.
Le Phuong, who is now a student of Puget Sound University in Washington state, and was once the student of the Hanoi-Amsterdam Gifted University, said that TOEFL is a necessary test, but not sufficient enough for those who plan to study in foreign countries.
Lan Huong – Tu Uyen