Alumni watch: Q&A with Quentin Hale

Quentin Hale, a 2014 graduate of Harlingen High School, has just returned from a part of this world which many U.S. citizens may still find puzzling.

It’s Vietnam, where many American soldiers fought a war which many feel they weren’t allowed to fight. They took with them a lifetime of nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, Quentin, 20, brought home two weeks of delighttful memories after teaching English in Da Nang June 6 through 19. Although he was located in Da Nang, he stayed one night in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and also took day trips to Hoi An and Hue.

Quentin went with a group from his church, First Christian Church. They coordinated their efforst with an orphanage called Orphan Voice and an English language coffee shop called Vision Café. He invited his friend Noah Resendiz, who graduated with him, to go.

Noah went with the group and taught English, but he remind behind after the group returned home.

He’s currently working as the pool manager at Victor Pool in Harlingen.

In Austin he works as a lifeguard at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center. He’ll soon return to the University of Texas at Austin where he’s earning a major in religious studies with a double minor in mathematics and science.

He’s unsure of his career plans, but he’s very interested in attending graduate school.

Q – What made you decide to teach in Vietnam?

A – I decided to go to Vietnam when I found out a group from my church, First Christian Church, was going.

Q – Did you teach English there?

A – We taught Engligh to college students. Most of them spoke English at an intermediate level. In other words, most of them spoke well enough that if they took a trip to an English speaking country, they would get along just fine. A few of them, however, surprised us with their fluency.

Most of them had been studying for a few years, but these fluent few had been learning since childhood.

Q – How did you manage to teach English to a people whose native language is completely different? What were the unique challenges of teaching English to the Vietnamese and how did you meet those challenges?

A – Since we weren’t really starting from square 1, teaching English wasn’t an insurmountable task. All of them spoke at least a little bit of English, so teaching them new words, correct grammar, and proper pronunciation wasn’t as difficult as it might sound.

The major challenege with teaching English to native Vietnamese speakers is that Vietnamese is a tonal language.

This means that the definition of a spoken word changes depending on the tone or pitch in which it is spoken. The trouble comes when they try to speak English, a language which is not so aurally intensive.

They have trouble finding the right vowels and consonants to emphasize.

Q – Some Vietnamese students often cut off the second half of many words, often dropping the consonants. Was this your experience?

A – The reason why some Vietnamese speakers cut off sounds is because of the French influence in the area.

Q – Did anyone make reference to the Americans in the war there in th 1960s and 1970s?

A – It didn’t seem like anybody was concerned with us being Americans. There was no resentment. They seemed to be envious of our economic prosperity.

Q – Did this work in Vietnam in any way tie in with your future career plans?

A – Yes. As a Religious Studies major, seeing the unique mix of Buddhism, atheism, and ancestor worship in Vietnam was quite interesting.

Q What did you enjoy most about Vietnam?

A – I very much enjoyed the people of Vietnam. Their society is so different from ours in so many ways. I especially liked their kindness to strangers.

Q – What was your most memorable experience?

A – One of my most memorable experiences was riding a motorcycle up one of the nearby mountains for a spectacular view.