Guest Posts

English Education in Vietnam – guest post by Rose Perry

Since 2007, Vietnam has become a member of WTO (World Trade Organization). Vietnam is known as a developing country which received 10.2 million US dollars from FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in 2006, the highest amount since 1997. Countless foreign companies was established in Vietnam because of large market with more than 90 million peoples. English is an international language that should be a second language in Vietnam. Compared to other countries in Asean, such as The Philippine and Malaysia, Vietnamese English command need to follow them.

English learning and teaching have been a contention for years in Vietnam as teacher qualifications and assessment methodologies are blamed for students’ failure to use the language in real life. These two issues are a major problem. This is a good signal that people can recognize the issue, then coming up with solutions.

In 2008 Vietnam issued Government Decision 1400, the goal of which is: “To renovate thoroughly the tasks of teaching and learning foreign languages within the national educational system”. Project 2020 of MoET (Ministry of Education and Training) was created in 2010 to implement this national renovation. Under Project 2020 Vietnam wants most of its students to be able to use a foreign language, especially English, confidently in their study, daily communication, and work by 2020.

Followed by The Guardian, more than 80,000 English language teachers in Vietnam’s state schools are expected to be confident, intermediate-level users of English, and to pass a test to prove it, as part of an ambitious initiative by MoET to ensure that all young people leaving school by 2020 have a good grasp of the language. MoET demands that high school teachers reach the framework’s second-highest skill level (C1), while elementary school teachers must achieve the fourth-highest level (B1) and middle school educators the third-highest (B2). The shocking result of the test was that a mere 3-7 percent made the grade. In Ho Chi Minh City, a paltry 15.5 percent of 1,100 teachers passed the test, even though the southern economic hub has some of the country’s highest academic standards. (Followed by statistics of in 2013).

B1, B2, and C1 themselves are not diplomas or certificates, they are just guidelines used to describe language command. Speakers of other languages often take common English tests such as TOEIC, TOEFL, or IELTS and get their scores compared to the framework. In that fashion, Vietnam should design a standardized testing system to assess teachers’ language proficiency like the above tests do. For the time being, TOEIC, TOEFL, IELTS or other international equivalents can be utilized pending such a system.

For years Vietnamese schools have focused on English grammar and reading comprehension, so exams have had to be set this way. It is no wonder, then, that pedagogical colleges would train their future teachers in these areas so that they can teach their students to pass the exams. As a result, both students and their teachers are trained to be experts in grammatical structures and vocabulary, but not to utilize these skills as a language. As a result, many students graduated from high school could not basic communicate in English. Thus, the testing format should be transformed to test four skills including reading, listening, speaking and writing that will be the best solution.

Not like in countryside, students merely depend on state schools to learn English. In cities, there are variety choices to learn English. Recent years, we can see English centers grow as mushrooms and the quality upgrade by years. Parents might see how important of English is hence their children would be sent to language centers from the early ages. At centers, methods focus on interaction in English, that means students will learn in active ways such as playing-role games and English camping. There is no better method to learn English but take an English bath daily. Especially, teachers’ quality is a plus at language centers. The teachers have international certificates of English besides holding a pedagogical degree and learning English with native speakers that helps students pronounce correctly as English pronunciation standard. But not many children have an opportunity to study English at centers, that depends on family’s affluence.

Nowadays, the Internet plays a crucial role in studying everything including English. That gives a huge opportunity for everyone no matter where he is, countryside or city, lack of conditions or wealth. There are giant knowledge sources offering for free on the Internet, such as Google and Youtube. All the things people need is merely a proper device can access to the Internet. They can access to Youtube or Google, then search “how to speak like a native speaker”, “how to write an essay” or “how to be good at English pronunciation” and learn English for free of charge. The internet opens a new door of learning for people that enables people take an active choice and arrangement for their future.

Besides two issues should be solved in education system of Vietnam, there are a bright side for studying English for free by the internet. The world is flat for learning knowledge by a huge effect of the internet. The matters are how much your effort is and how your time-management is.

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The Apartment in the Heart of Magical Medellin

The Apartment in the Heart of Magical Medellin

Photo credit Juan F. Uribe at Flickr

Looking for a perfect place to stay in the center of Medellin? Do you want to be surrounded by cafes, bars, galleries, theatres, and interesting people? And avoid the tourist hordes?

Close to everything.

El 401 – as the apartment is nicknamed –caters to a variety of travelers from individuals to small families. It is affordable, regularly cleaned, and can be rented by the day, the week or the month.

Run by a Colombian national and a Canadian, these hosts can help you live like a local in both languages.


This large fourth-floor two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment offers travelers a multiple of options. The apartment has abundant natural light, pleasant ambiance, and is secure.

Wi-fi, television and the usual amenities are included. Laundry service is available for a small fee.

The apartment is pet-friendly so you can bring Rocky or Fluffy. Smoking, however, is not allowed.

You can come and go as you please, but only registered guests are allowed at El 401. The bedrooms have keys for additional security. Please arrive with copies of two pieces of photo identification.

Sorry, no elevator.

Our apartment is one floor below El 401, so if you need anything, we are easy to find and always pleased to help.

Reservations, fees and payments

Tell us the dates you want and we can take it from there. We accept cash, credit cards, and PayPal. There is an ATM 50 or so paces away.

Cancellation is flexible.

The large room with a comfortable double bed and ensuite                                                                                                           

Double room with lots of open closet space.



Ensuite for the double room with a large shower.







One person 

$55USD per day

$350 per week

$1350 per month

Two people  

$60USD per day

$385 per week

$1,500 per month

The smaller room with two single beds and a private bath at the back of the apartment

Room with two single beds.









One person

$30USD per day

$175 per week

$600 per month

Two people

$45 per day

$280 per week

$1,000 per month

Additional person on the sofa bed in the lounge $15 per day.

The entire apartment for up to five/six people

$120 USD a day

$770 a week

$3000 per month

Lounge with television

Lounge area


Need to check your emails or write a report for the meeting tomorrow? The large desk gives you room to spread out and work. Or to play computer games.

Office space







Dining area

Dining area
Dining 2









The kitchen

The large, spacious kitchen is fully equipped with pot & pans, crockery, cutlery, and just everything you might need including a can-opener and a corkscrew.

For those who want to cook, basics like tea, instant coffee, salt, pepper, sugar, and such are provided to save you the hassle of having to buy them. As well as a gas stove, there is an electric oven.













The apartment building before the bar opened.

El 401 is on Maracaibo Street about half a block from Girardot. The major Avenida Oriental is two blocks west and the action-packed Avenida La Playa is two blocks to the south.

La Playa

Eats and Drinks

In this regard, you are spoiled for choice – as shown on the map above.

There is a bar just to the left of the door of the apartment building and an empanada café to the right. There are also three larger restaurants – two of which offer outdoor seating — on the block before you get to the corners. And there are three more on the other side of the street.

Jenibre – the cafe next door

We will provide you with photocopies of the cards of restaurants and services you might want/need. Vegetarians and vegans are well served in this area.

Wild hip-hop and sports bars you will have to find on your own, but there is no shortage of them in the barrio.





A 20-minute stroll will take you to all the public transport options. The metro – as the trains are known — are fast, inexpen

sive and hook up with the cable cars, buses and electric stairs. The trambia — a new train service that takes up the whole street – is about a 10-minute walk.

Taxis – small yellow cars that buzz the street like swarms of hornets –have fares that start at about $1.50 USD and you can get across the city to suburbs like El Poblado, Laureles, and Envigado for $10 to $20.


Supermarkets and convenience stores abound within a 10-to-15-minute walk. Plaza de Flores – a three-story building that virtually takes up an entire block – is also a must-visit.

Placita de Florez

We will send you to our favorite grocer who doesn’t over-charge foreigners. You will enjoy some of the freshest vegetables and tropical fruits you have ever eaten.




Additional Services

At El 401, we are dedicated to making your stay as memorable as possible. We start with a welcome basket of information, drinks and snacks so you can just relax.

There is a bus from the airport that is cheap and takes you to downtown Medellin. Then it is a $2 to $3 taxi ride to the apartment. A taxi directly from the airport will cost about $35.

A private taxi with an English driver can also be arranged.

We will also give you our business cards – complete with our cell numbers and e-mails so it is easy to find your way home if you have too much cervisa (beer), get lost or want to show it to a taxi driver.

Bike rental

Two mountain bikes are available for rent at $5 for a half day or $8 for the day. The only conditions are that you have to carry them up and down the stairs and make sure that they don’t get stolen.

Bikes for rent.


We have a list of bilingual guides who can take you where you want to go, be it to Parque Arvi – for people who like hiking in the mountains — the Museum of the University Antioquia, or down the road to Santa Elena – the flower capital of Colombia — for lunch.

About us

Yoly is a paisa – as the people in Medellin call themselves – Colombian.

As the restaurateur of Ambrosia Café — she is gone for much of the day and night. La Posada 401 guests who want to eat at the cafe – an eight-or-so-minute walk — will receive a 10 percent discount.












Jody is a Canadian-born travel junkie who hasn’t lived in the land of ice and snow for 25 years. She is a writer, editor, and teacher who works from her home office and is generally around.


Our apartment is one floor below El 401, so if you need anything, we are easy to find and always pleased to help.






Photos from around the barrio


Across the street at the Colombo-Americano













Jose at the launch of his book Poesia Y Astronomia. There are always lots of cultural events going on in the area – theatre, music, art exhibits, photo displays.

Jose reading at his book launch of “Poesia y Astronomia.”












The trambia — train — runs on this street, so it is traffic free. Medellin is winning international awards for urban development and public transport. a 10 minute walk.

Avenada La Playa – two blocks away — at Christmas.



Street art abounds








Pargue Perodista, half a block




Lots of theatres varying from the Little Theatre (pictured) to the Pablo Toron Teatro

The Little Theatre


Another touch of culture in the barrio.








And for those who crave the great outdoors – there is something on offer for everyone —