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Interview with John Pham

Interviewee: 
Pham, John
Interviewer: 
Cloniger, Catherine
Date of Interview: 
2002-09-12
Identifier: 
LGPH0418
Subjects: 
relationships with people and places; cultural identification
Abstract: 
John Pham talks about education in Vietnam.
Collection: 
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Catherine Cloniger interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Transcript:
CC (Catherine Cloniger): Uh, [clears throat] I have with me, uh, John Pham.
JP (John Pham): Yeah.
CC: Um, Mr. Pham, would you tell me about your education in your home country of Vietnam?
JP: Yeah, um, in Vietnam, a long, a long time ago, uh, [clears throat], under Chinese domain-, domination-, that's education like, uh, China.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Uh, [clears throat] on, uh, 19-, about in 1960s-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Yeah, 1960, uh, the French came to Vietnam-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -And, uh, [clears throat] under, uh, French domination.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Uh, we have education system like French-
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -And we start from, uh, 1940, the American come to Vietnam-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -And we have the third education system.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Uh, that mean for the old generation people in Vietnam, they, uh, speak, uh, my own language-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -And speak, uh, French-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Because of French education-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -And for, uh, young generation, we speak, uh, English because of influence from U.S.A.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Uh, we have three step for education [cough]. Uh, first thing is, uh, seven years for ele-, elementary school.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: // ( ) //
CC: // What // age do students // start? //
JP: // Uh, // I think about five years old-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Because first he's going to go to pre-K-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -I think, sorry, four-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Four years old, uh, the children go to pre-K-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Five year go to K-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -And six years old, they go to elementary school-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -To // grade, uh, five.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: And [cough] then at age six they go to the, they go to the high school.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: In Vietnam, they call, uh, the call high school.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: And, uh, six, seven, eight, nine, like, like, uh, junior high.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Yeah.
CC: Yeah.
JP: And 10, 11, 12, uh, uh, senior high.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: A second step-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -I mean, // uh, secondary school.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Uh, I mean, yeah, four plus three, seven year for, for, ah, high school.
CC: OK.
JP: And after that they go to, uh, University.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Uh, [clears throat] The program, uh, they bring the program from, from, uh, from France to Vietnam-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Under French Domination. Uh, four year co-, four year college for a Bachelor-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -And, uh, and two year after that for, uh, Master's Degree.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: And two more year or three more years that depends-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -For the Ph.D.-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -Doctorate. //
CC: Is, is, uh, the university education paid for-.
JP: // Uh. //
CC: // -By // the country?
JP: Uh, our country so poor, but the education, uh, is free.
CC: Even all the way // through college? //
JP: // Uh, yeah, // something like our country is poor, but, uh, the health is free.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: The health is free. Health // is free. //
CC: // For everybody? //
JP: For everybody is free.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: I, uh, [clears throat], uh, I, I talk, talking about the, uh, uh, uh, the Thai, during the Thai and French domination, every subject teaching university-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -In French.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: In French. Uh, and, from 1940, from 1940 an American come-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -America, uh, help Vietnam too much in education, on working on Master's Degree // and-. //
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: -Ph.D. degree. That mean every student go to Master's degree or Ph.D. degree had for, uh, had to learn how to speak English.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: But anyway when we are, we was, we were young, in high school-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -We learned how to speak both English and French-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -At, at, that, uh, our choice-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Like a second language.
CC: Uh-huh. Both? Or you chose // one or the other? //
JP: // Ah, um, // [clears throat], for, for the beginning, uh, under French do-, French domination, only, French only.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: [Laughs] [Laughter] No English. [Laughter] [Laughs] But, most, most, more of the, more of the, uh, 1940s-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Big change during World War II.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Then Americans come to Vietnam.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Uh, because in Viet-, the war, the war Vi-, in Vietnam, not a, not a civil war-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -But a war between two blocs, that, uh, communist and capitalist.
CC: Right.
JP: Tell me no, tha-, thank you so much, so, so very much American to help Vietnam during the war. Uh, not, uh, not between North and South, but between two, uh, two blocs.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Yeah.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: That mean, uh, they help, American help us too much. Uh, but, e-, every ( ) come from Michigan-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Ohio.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Uh, uh, [clears throat], something like me in Vietnam, uh, for four year college, I study every subject in French.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: The teacher come from Paris-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Sorbonne.
CC: That's why you speak French so // well. //
JP: // Yeah. // And, uh, and, uh, after that, ah um, I could, I, I could use a mas-, a four year college a long time ago. In 19-, 1963, '64.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: [Laughs] [Laughter] After a few year for teaching, I come back to school to lea-, to, to, uh, to do the, uh, Master's Degree.
CC: You taught in Vietnam?
JP: Pardon?
CC: You taught in Vietnam?
JP: Yes.
CC: What did you teach?
JP: I t-, I , I [clears throat], teach ( )-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -And also phi-, philosophy and, uh, social study-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -Because // I had four year college in, uh, social study and, uh, philosophy-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -I // had two options, something like a, two options, I had two, two bachelor's-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -One bachelor in social study-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -And one Bachelor's in, uh, in philosophy.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: I mean, during, [clears throat], in Vietnam I taught in, uh, phi-, philosophy-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -And social study.
CC: Were you married at that time?
JP: Uh, yeah.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // Af-, // after four year college-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -I meet my wife, yeah. And, uh, my Master's and Ph.D. degree, every subject teaching in, in English.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Yeah. I'm so, I'm so happy to learn, uh, to learn, to study, to get a Master's Degree.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Yeah, because the, // the, professors-. //
CC: // [Clears throat] //
JP: -Come from Ohio, and some, some come from Chapel Hill-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -UNC Chapel Hill-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -I, // I remember, yeah. Oh, very well known teacher professor, I forget their, their name, but I think very well known professor.
CC: What was the name of your university?
JP: Uh, in, in Vietnam she was under, under French domination we had only one university.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: The Hanoi University.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: For Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
CC: Oh.
JP: Three country, only one // university. //
CC: // [Laugh] // Was it competitive to get in?
JP: Uh, is very, very hard to get in.
CC: Uh-hmm.
JP: Very hard. Uh, uh, we had to pass, uh, uh, exam-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -To get in. Because all three country, Vietnam, Cambodia-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -And, uh, Laos-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Only one university. But after that, uh, then Americans come to Vietnam-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -American to Vietnam, like in 19-, I can tell you, 1940s-.
CC: Right.
JP: -American and, uh, Europe-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Something like Germany-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Something like, uh, England-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Helped my country to build up, to build a university. That mean, after that we have at least three of, three to five universities.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Yeah, in whole country.
CC: Did you go to Hanoi?
JP: Uh, mo-, I ca-, I was born in Hanoi-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -North Vietnam.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: But I, ah, graduated from Saigon University ( ) Hanoi, in the beginning, uh, University of Hanoi-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -But after in 1954-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -1954, // Vietnam divide by two-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -North and South.
CC: Right.
JP: But Hanoi moved to Saigon.
CC: // Oh. //
JP: // Hanoi // University moved to Saigon.
CC: OK.
JP: I mean I was born in Hanoi-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -But I, um, graduated from Saigon University, very, a very well known university.
CC: Which used to be-.
JP: // Yeah. //
CC: // -Hanoi. //
JP: Yeah.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Uh, uh, ( ), we have a three-year sys-, uh, education system.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Chinese a long time ago-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -French, and, uh, American influenced.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Yeah, uh, that mean, uh, uh, [clears throat], if, in Vietnam if, uh, someone wants to be a big boss-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -To // become a big boss-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -Or // something like a principal-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Something like a lawyer-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Or something like, uh, architect-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -A // professional-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -They // had to speak at least one language.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: But, uh, two languages is, is the best way-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -( ) English and French. Thank you so much for American. They help us too much to build university, yeah.
CC: What year did you move to the United States?
JP: Uh, I move to, uh, the first thing I moved to, uh, Canada in 1975.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Uh, when the Communists, uh, took over, uh, our country-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -I moved to, uh, Canada. And, uh, in 1975.
CC: Did you have any children by then?
JP: Uh, yes I had three // children. //
CC: // You // already had // ( ). //
JP: // Uh, // two, two-.
CC: Two children.
JP: -Two, and the last in born // [laughs]-. //
CC: // Was born-. //
JP: -[Laughs] In Canada // [laughs]. //
CC: // -In Canada [clears throat]. //
JP: Uh, after, um, around, more than 10 years in Canada, I feel too cold.
CC: [Laugh]
JP: // [Laughs] //
CC: // That's why you // moved here?
JP: [Laughs] Yeah, I moved to, [laughs], here, yeah-.
CC: // [Laugh] //
JP: // -Yeah, // yeah, the people so nice, yeah. I really like that. So nice, yeah. Yeah. Any questions?
CC: That's wonderful.
JP: Yeah // [laughs]. //
CC: // As, as // the only, uh, Vietnamese person that I know, I can, I can tell that the Vietnamese are just as nice.
JP: Thank you very much. Ah, you right. Because, uh, all, most the Vietnamese are high class, I tell you. The Vietnamese high class-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -They move, the, the, they move out of, out of Vietnam, they want to get out Vietnam as soon as possible in 1975.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Yeah. [Clears throat] You, you, you meet the people, the Vietnamese people here are mostly, uh, high educated.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: Yeah, but any, any of the Vietnamese people is nice, is nice, yeah, they polite. Like the Chi-, Chinese-.
CC: // Right. //
JP: // -Like // the Japanese. Uh, the, we're talking about the Chinese, uh, education-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -The Chinese educated-, the first thing, discipline-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Respect teacher.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: We have, uh, one, uh, idiom-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -It'd be like, uh, the first thing is a king. The first person ( )-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -The second one is a teacher.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: And the parent is, uh, number three.
CC: Oh.
JP: Yeah, uh-.
CC: I'll have to tell my students that one // [laugh]. //
JP: // Yeah, ( ) the Japanese, Chinese // and Korean ( ), and all of Asia, uh, influenced by China-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Because China is a big, big country-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -And too many things to learn, even for me.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: I am come from, uh, Vietnam. I read too many books talking about China. But so, until now I, I continue to learn, to study, about China.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: China is too many things to discover.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: And, and, and so, and so not in science, but in its culture-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -In social study. I read too many books in China, but until now, I want to read more and more because China is a big, big country, and the population is, is, right now it's more than one billion.
CC: That's right.
JP: And the language, uh, more than one billion people talk, speak Cantonese, very important. I try to learn how to speak China-, Chinese, and, but it is hard.
CC: Yeah.
JP: Yeah. My, my daughter in law-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -She // is Chinese, I learn from her-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -How to speak Chinese.
CC: Did she speak Chinese as her first language, or did she speak English also // from, uh-? //
JP: // I think she, // uh, I think my daughter in law, she speak, uh, [pause], I think two languages at same time-.
CC: // ( ) //
JP: // -Yeah, // because her, uh, her parent is a teacher.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: But at school they speak English-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Maybe something like at home // he-. //
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: -Uh, uh, she speaking in Chinese-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -But // out, out of the house-.
CC: // Uh-huh. //
JP: // -They // speak, uh, English-.
CC: Uh-huh.
JP: -Yeah. // Education. //
CC: // [Clears throat] //
JP: [Laughs]
CC: Well, thank you. I've learned so much.
JP: Yeah. Thank you very much // [laughs]. //
CC: // I appreciate it. //
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