If you are going to Vietnam and have no knowledge of the language, you ask yourself: How easy is it to get by with just English? I will talk about English in Vietnam and how difficult it is for a foreigner to get by without any Vietnamese in this blog.
In the past, Chinese and Russian were largely taught in most of schools and were considered as second language. In recent years, as Vietnam’s contacts with Western nations have increased, English has become more popular as a second language and taught in a larger scale, eventually replacing Chinese and Russian.
English in School
Nowadays, English is mandatory in most schools in Vietnam, sometimes alongside French. English proficiency is now seen as a vital requirement for employment. According to an educational reform, all students will have a minimum level of English by 2020. English in schools is limited in reading and writing skills, but not much speaking & listening skills. As part of the strategy, officials have adopted the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) to measure language competency. Students are expected to reach the level B1 by the time they graduate.
EF English Proficiency Index
The EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) attempts to rank countries by the average level of English language skills amongst those adults who took their exam. Vietnam is in place 34 of 80 countries worldwide and 7 of 20 in Asia with a score of 53.43, which is considerate a moderate proficiency. While the Southeast and the Red River Delta, Ho Chi Minh City’s and Hanoi’s regions respectively, are regions with the highest English proficiency within Vietnam; the North Central Coast, on the other hand, has the lowest proficiency. According to EF EPI, women have a higher English proficiency than men, but the difference is not big.
So…is it easy to get by with just English? Long story short, the answer is yes, BUT depends on where you go. Residents in all the tourist areas are able to communicate in English. In more remote areas, English speakers can be very rare. Some older Vietnamese people will speak more French than English, especially in the former South Vietnam. The importance of promoting English in Vietnam is growing due to its importance in the business world.
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