80-Year-Old Japanese Man Learns Vietnamese To Help Vulnerable Workers In Japan

Elderly Japanese man learns Vietnamese language

Even though the Vietnamese language is gaining more popularity in recent years, it’s still a very hard language to master. Most foreigners who learn Vietnamese are local expats working on assignments in the host country, or students majoring in the subject.

For Mr Matsumiya Masaharu, an 80-year-old Japanese citizen, his motivation in learning Vietnamese is not to profit himself, but to assist Vietnamese people in Japan. Hoping to help Vietnamese students in his area adapt to the Japanese way of life, this former teacher decided to study and sit for the Vietnamese Language Proficiency Test (VLPT) in Tokyo.  

He learns Vietnamese to help Vietnamese people in Japan

Image adapted from: VOV

On 20th June, the Japanese College of Foreign Languages (JCFL) in Tokyo hosted the 4th VLPT with the attendance of 561 examinees. The 1st VLPT was organized in Japan in 2017, seeing 379 examinees. 

Among the examinees was Mr Matsumiya, an 80-year-old Japanese citizen from Hyogo who happened to be a former teacher of the Japanese language in Hanoi. Speaking with VOV, Mr Matsumiya shared his motivation to learn and master Vietnamese language.

“There are 2 reasons for my learning Vietnamese and taking VLPT. First of all, when I taught Japanese in a Hanoian school, I couldn’t even tell my students “Please study hard!” in the Vietnamese language. That wasn’t good at all. Secondly, I wanted to help Vietnamese students in Japan with learning our customs, such as segregating garbage and understanding local regulations. However, I couldn’t do that because I didn’t speak Vietnamese.”   

Determined to change the situation, Mr Matsumiya burned the midnight oil and travelled hundreds of kilometers from his hometown to Tokyo to take the test.

More Japanese are learning Vietnamese

Students revising for the exam
Image credit: VOV

According to Mr
Masayoshi Fujino, a member of the exam board, the 4th VLPT saw the attendance of examinees from all over Japan, such as Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa, Okinawa, and Hyogo. 

The VLPT has 6 levels, measuring test-takers’ level of understanding of basic grammar, vocabulary, as well as the Vietnamese culture and economy. 

Over the past 4 years, the amount of Japanese people sitting for the VLPT has increased, as well as the number of examinees passing the exam. 

Image credit: VOV

For example, the passing rate was only 16.7% when the first VLPT was organized but has reached 32% in the most recent exam in 2019. This progress reflects the growing interest and efforts of Japanese people in learning the Vietnamese language.

A majority of examinees said that they learned Vietnamese because they were fascinated by Vietnamese culture, while some had jobs that were related to Vietnam.

Image adapted from: VOV

Minami Kotono, a young examinee of VLPT, learned Vietnamese for a good cause.

“When I was in high school, I learned that Japan is home to a great population of Vietnamese students and workers. However, a large number of them don’t speak Vietnamese and are not well-versed in the employment benefits they are entitled to. Therefore, I decided to learn Vietnamese so that I can help vulnerable Vietnamese people in Japan.” she said.   

According to Mr Ise Yoji, head of JCFL, there is an increasing demand for learning Vietnamese among Japanese citizens. For this reason, JCFL is looking to host VLPT in other cities such as Osaka, Fukuoka, and Kyushu in the foreseeable future. 

80-year-old man learns Vietnamese to help Vietnamese people

Learning to increase your knowledge is commendable, but to help people with what you have learned is even more meaningful. Not only did Mr Matsumiya set a great example of learning in old age, but his motivation for learning also showed his compassion and appreciation for Vietnamese people.

We wish Mr Matsumiya, Minami Kotono, and other VLPT examinees all the best with their test results and in their endeavors to explore Vietnamese culture.  

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Cover image adapted from: VOV

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Josee Ng

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