Tender Fortitude

Interview by Liling Lee
Photographs by Shih-Wen Tseng
Organized by FICHET

Dinh Thi Thu(丁氏秋), born in an unsophisticated countryside in northern Vietnam, went to Taiwan to search for new possibilities. After learning mandarin for two years, Thu aroused her interests in pursuing knowledge, thus she intended to get degrees in Taiwan, Thu met her better half when studying for master degree and had babies. Now Thu teaches Vietnamese in many in schools, she expects to let more and more Taiwanese know Vietnam culture, most important of all, to create a friendly environment for her children and children of new inhabitants from other countries. Thu’s story shows that with confidence one can realize dreams and accommodate others.


Hello Taiwan!Xin chào Đài Loan!

When we first met Thu, she wore traditional Vietnamese clothes Áo Dài but speaking fluent Mandarin with her students. We couldn’t find any accent in her talk, yet she’s genuine a Vietnamese. Thu born in a beautiful and rich countryside of northern Vietnam, nature cultivated her to be an adventurer for life.

Thu, though, didn’t know anything about Taiwan before, recommended by relatives and friends around her, she decided to learn Mandarin in Taiwan together with several friends. At first, Thu took Mandarin classes in Chinese Culture University for two years, it took her a period of time to accommodate the differences of linguistic logic and grammar. Just like learning new things, the beginning was always the most difficult part. Thu tried many ways to learn, she remembered the teachers taught them in vivid and interactive ways that helped them learn faster, things they learned were beneficial for living in Taiwan and also influenced the way she though students in the future. Aside from adopting new knowledge from classes, Thu took part-time jobs in the restaurant to exposure herself in a favorable learning environment.


Learning by Experiences

Experiences are always the best mentors for life. Over those eight to nine years working in the restaurant, Thu improved her Mandarin skills by communicating with the owner and other staffs. Practices brought up her confidence, gradually she attempted to interact with the customers. At the same time, Thu sometimes worked as guide for Vietnamese tourists coming to Taiwan. She autonomously found these part-time jobs in order to have more opportunities to face Taiwanese, forcing herself to speak.

Thu said Taiwan provided friendly conditions for foreign learners, they could find many resources and opportunity here; however, how to make a living in Taiwan depended on the one’s attitude and efforts. That’s why she kept being active and positively facing the challenges.


Sets of Dreams

Thu had strong motivations in further studying for her life plan. She though now that there were many academic resources in Taiwan, why not make good use of them and fulfill her dream here. She went to Department of Chinese as a Second Language in National Taiwan Normal University for bachelor degree, after that, she entered Department of educational management in National Taipei University of education for Master study.

Thu fulfilled her dream as a teacher teaching Vietnamese for students and general public. She said it was more difficult to find a faculty position in Vietnam, not only because the qualification was harder to receive, but because the number of private schools was fewer, as a result, she felt pleasure to do teach Vietnamese in Taiwan, even though she had to spend much time preparing materials for classes every week.

What Thu wanted to convey in the classes were simple: basic knowledge and the culture of Vietnam. Students would learn Vietnam, but more important was to learn how to live and tackle with the problems encountered when visiting Vietnam.


A Strong Character

In different stages of life, one will change altitude and attitude. Thu’s marriage to a Taiwanese changed her life and self-positioning as a foreign mother in Taiwan. After having her own babies, she suspended the schooling in order to feed her children. Thu, in this process, found there was something not noticing before, as a result, she decided to write academic thesis about children of new inhabitants based on her children’s needs, and what they will encounter when growing up in Taiwan. She believed this thesis could wake more people’s awareness for people like her and her children, she can also learn more from it. Thu also submitted her project for the children of Vietnamese and Indonesian new inhabitants to learn their mother tongue. This project was adopted by Ministry of Culture and finished successfully previously.

Now, Thu has more idea for her future in Taiwan. Exchanges among cultures should not be limitations, likewise, interaction among people should not be restricted in the classroom. Thu plans to open a shop, a space for languages learning and cultural exchanges, for example, cooking, with her friends from Southeast Asia countries towards Taiwanese, the Teachers can take their students there as well. This will be another story to tell.


Be Confident, Be Positive

Thu had difficulties living in Taiwan in the beginning because of communicating like many people first visit a new place. She kept telling herself not to be scared because she believes only if she conquers initial challenges could she make her dreams come true. Her efforts are seen by other new inhabitants and become the motivation for them to pursue dreams and perhaps better life. It was Mother’s Day when we interviewed Thu, in addition to her energy, we felt more perseverance of a female in her talk. As a mother, she believes if she loses confidence for life, her children will feel toilful for life as well, this may happen to other new inhabitants. She encourages everyone to be confident and positive not only for themselves but the one they love.

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