It would be easy for a visitor to the weekly Vietnamese class at the National Immigration Agency (NIA) headquarters to believe he or she had chanced upon a meeting somewhere in Vietnam rather than in Taipei.
“It’s one of our missions to serve more than 80,000 immigrant spouses plus workers from Vietnam in Taiwan, and language is the key to open the door to better understanding,” NIA Director-General Hsieh Li-kung (謝立功)told the Taipei Times after the final class of the 12-week course on Wednesday night.
Agency employees freely conversed with each other in Vietnamese for the final exam.
“When you learn a language, you also learn the culture behind it,” Hsieh said.
“I think language classes could be very beneficial to NIA employees who may have to deal with people from other countries in their daily work, and that’s why I started these language lessons,” he said.
There have been cases in which NIA agents have come into conflict with immigrant workers or spouses because of cultural misunderstandings, and Hsieh said he hoped such lessons could prevent similar occurrences in the future.
Besides Vietnamese lessons, English and Japanese courses are also offered at NIA headquarters, while NIA branch offices across the country are encouraged to create language classes for employees according to each office’s needs, Hsieh said.
In fact, Hsieh himself was also a student in the class.
“The director-general has never skipped a class. On one occasion, he went straight from the airport to the classroom after inspecting NIA facilities in Penghu,” said Hoang Oanh, the Vietnamese teacher of the class.
“I really feel a sense of achievement seeing these students from knowing zero Vietnamese to being able to carry out simple conversations,” said the teacher, a naturalized Taiwanese.
NIA executive officer Chang Yu-huang (張郁凰) said it was sometimes very tiring to attend classes after work, but she kept going because it was a rare opportunity to learn Vietnamese.
“I have opportunities to be in touch with Vietnamese nationals on my job, so why not learn their language to facilitate communication a little?” Chang said.
Having received positive feedback, Hsieh said that the agency would continue to offer foreign language courses to its employees.
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