For Viet, coming to New Zealand from his home in Vietnam nearly ten years ago was about family. “In 2009, I visited my sister. I stayed here for one month and I found this country really nice, and good for families. I thought about living here.”
With two parents and another sister already in Australia, Viet started looking into joining his trans-Tasman family. “I found a job with a Kiwi boss and he applied for a work visa for me. But when I started working, I didn’t speak English.”
Viet began working as a painter in the Hutt Valley, learning on the job. Although he had “a very good boss” who was happy to teach him painting skills, they soon found that practical skills alone weren’t enough.
“I can’t explain to him,” Viet says. “So sometimes he just talked with body language. He told me to paint half the doorframe, and I painted the whole doorframe.
“After that, I think I have to learn English.”
Fortunately, Viet’s sister had heard about English Language Partners. “My sister said they’ve got a free class so we looked it up on the website and got the address, and my sister rang.”
Since then, Viet has been studying with four or five classmates and a “very nice teacher.” “She teaches me the things I don’t understand,” he says. “And explains very well.”
Viet says what he learns in his English for Employees course is linked to the language skills he needs every day. “Sometimes, outside the class, we’ve got new words, so I’ll take it back to class to show the teacher. People like me, we don’t know how English sounds.”
From his early difficulties, Viet has reached the point of being able to write emails and arrange painting jobs. “I’m not very good, but good enough to talk on the phone with some clients.”
That’s meant a big change for Viet’s working life.
“I own my business now, I’m self-employed, and I got citizenship. I’m happy, I’m a very lucky man.”
Viet Doan Do
“I found companies that supply the jobs for me. Some big companies do subcontracts, and they like me. And some of my friends are builders, and they’ll pass customers to me.”
He’s pleased with the benefits that learning with English Language Partners has brought to his personal life. “It’s not only painting. English is for my [whole] life.”
Viet’s wife and two children have also been learning English, but he says learning English himself has helped support their health and education.
“Sometimes I have to speak with their teacher, and sometimes I have to speak with the doctor, for myself and for my kids, too.
“Before, when my kids were sick, I had to take my sister for translation. Now, I can speak on my own,” Viet says. “It’s like, 100 per cent different. That’s why I think English is so important.”
Viet is full of encouragement and advice for anyone thinking of improving their English. He believes confidence is important.
“Don’t be shy to ask questions. In class, sometimes we’ve got a three-minute talk. Even though sometimes my grammar is not good, sometimes my pronunciation is not good, I keep going.”
As his business develops, Viet’s English skills must rise to the challenge, so Viet doesn’t see himself ending his study efforts anytime soon.
“I have to keep this going.”
Writer Jack Montgomerie | Photos Stevie Hight