Today, Thuy and I spent about 3 hours with the Dean and Vice-dean of the Special Education Department at Ho Chi Minh City University. HCMC University has one of the largest education degree programs in the country and offers undergraduate diplomas in special education. Thuan An is affiliated with the university, providing courses and mentorships to aspiring teachers of the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

Our program was well-received by both heads. They see a real need for more of this advanced type of training to give teachers of the deaf and hard-of-hearing a deeper insight than any domestic university curriculum has been able to provide. Our meeting was a positive first step towards collaboration. They said they would love to see our program become a 3-year initiative that could serve as an extension of the university at Thuan An. I, of course, loved that idea as well, but we need the funding to make it happen.

There was a university student taking notes during our meeting. After we wrapped up, I asked her how classes were going and she said “they have us working as hard as a buffalo!” I soon learned that the water buffalo is the equivalent to our work horse. So, instead of saying they have us working “as hard as a horse”, they say “as hard as a buffalo”. How fun is that?!

I have been learning a lot about Vietnamese language development in children and how hearing-impaired children are taught to overcome the challenges that come along with the tonal aspects of their language. For instance, several Vietnamese words have multiple meanings depending on their intonation. The word comes off the lips in the same way each time, but with different tones. That poses difficulty for a hearing-impaired child who relies on lip-reading and can’t hear the intonation. To remedy this, teachers help these children think about the larger context of the sentence and which of the word variations makes the most sense for that particular sentence. So, for example, the word “ma” can have six different meanings depending on the intonation. In the sentence “My horse is in the barn” the child is trained to recognize that horse is the best “ma” word that fits in the sentence, and hence is the word that has just been said. Of course, this teaching strategy isn’t always foolproof, and teachers stress that more approaches to help with intonations in language is needed.