The Vietnamese Secondary Language (VSL) 2017 Summer Session is Here!

By Boa Newgate

The purpose of the South East Asian Coalition’s Vietnamese Secondary Language (VSL) class is to bridge the gap between different cultures and generations, as well as between children and their parents.

Learning together! photos: Boa Newgate

In today’s world, many Vietnamese-American kids are not really fluent in their second language, which hampers their ability to communicate with their parents and elders who may not find it easy to speak English.

When the previous Vietnamese generation came to the United States, they joined the workforce immediately, hoping to achieve the American dream and to build a better future for themselves and their children. Because they were working such long days, though, they didn’t normally have the time to enroll in ESL classes and improve their English.

Boa leading a group at SEAC, based in the Denholm building, downtown Worcester

When they have children, they spend even more time providing them with the best opportunities they can offer them, leaving little time to impart the culture and language of their motherland to their offspring. Because of this, their children have trouble clearly conveying their thoughts and opinions to their elders, resulting in a lot of misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

My mission was to create a bridge for children and their parents to meet each other half way in establishing good communication and learning more about their culture. Even though most people here are Vietnamese, other people who are interested in Vietnamese culture and want to pick up a second language are very welcome, too!

Learning Vietnamese to better communicate with parents and elders

We’re looking forward to another great session for the summer of 2017. Last year’s summer session was a huge success! We have gotten a great reaction from the Worcester community: classes are packed, and we often don’t have enough volunteers to help out with teaching!

The success of our VSL program has also reached the ears of National Public Radio (NPR)! Recently, they came to Worcester to do a story on us and our program! We decided to make the VSL a year-round program in response to all the community interest!

Go, VSL, go!!!

This year, we’re also introducing a new pen pal program for the VSL program. During my trip to Vietnam in the spring, which was the inspiration for the Youth Effect International program, I collected handwritten letters from the Vietnamese youths in the schools that I visited. I plan to give these letters to the VSL students in our classes and have them write back to the kids in Vietnam – in Vietnamese!

Next year, when I go back to Vietnam, I’ll be giving the students there the letters from the Worcester youths, and I’ll be collecting their responses in English. I hope we’ll be able to create a community that spans oceans and generates many meaningful relationships, all the while helping everyone improve their second language.

If you’re fluent in Vietnamese and would like to be a part of our growing community, we hope to see you as a volunteer in our VSL program!


If you want to help with the program, all of us greatly appreciate any and all donations.

If you’d like to donate specific items, we’re also currently looking for school supplies.

Thank you for your time!

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