Document 13738158

International Postgraduate Conference, Centre for Applied Linguistics (CAL)
'Working and Communicating Across Cultures'
June 2016
Michelle Evans
“Writing in English takes too long so my teacher usually missed that out”: Vietnamese postgraduates’
experiences of learning to write in English.
Postgraduates in Vietnam are increasingly expected to write university assignments in English. This is often a
daunting task and students feel unprepared to meet the academic writing requirements which contrast
significantly to their previous writing activities in English and Vietnamese. Situated within second language
writing fields and English for Academic Purposes the research project used writing biographies, text analysis,
and composing aloud techniques to explore how eleven students from various academic disciplines in Hanoi
and Ho chi Minh City a) perceive writing university assignments in English, b) which genres they produce
within their university courses and c) the essay writing processes they engage in.
Preliminary findings confirm that postgraduates’ English language learning was dominated by a grammarfocused curriculum with writing in English limited to ‘fill the gap’ exercises and multiple choice assessments.
These findings corroborate issues in learning to write in English within the Vietnamese context. At higher
levels, students struggled to identify with the critical thinking, disciplinary rhetoric and research concepts
introduced within MA courses. For those who aspire to study or work abroad, the ‘IELTS experience’ has
thwarted perceptions of and writing processes used within the ‘essay’ genre.
The research highlights challenges of being a ‘native English outsider’ attempting to grasp culturally embedded
concepts including the influence of Confucianism; and capturing the authentic intended meanings of students
when working with interpreters. A multi- stage verification process was designed to respond to these threats to
validity and was used with success to endorse the value of the research.