Vu Hai Ha, Nguyen Tran Tram Anh

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Abstract: The recent increase in the number of foreign visitors to Vietnam highlights the necessity for the improvement of English speaking skills of small traders in Hanoi’s Old Quarter - a popular tourist destination in Vietnam, where English is pivotal in both trading and promoting Vietnamese culture. In that context, this research explores how these traders could acquire their English speaking skills in their own living contexts. Adopting both qualitative and quantitative methods, particularly observation, interviews with small traders (n=23) and survey questionnaires combined with interviews with foreigners (n=100), the research has reached two major conclusions. First, unlike popular assumptions that small traders learn English through contact with foreigners, the sources of their English acquisition were much more diverse. Secondly, small traders were expected to speak English well not only to carry out transactions but also to aid foreigners in a wide range of functions, ranging from navigating through the streets to better understanding Vietnamese culture. However, the English speaking skills of these traders were often found insufficient in terms of grammatical, discourse, and sociolinguistic competences. From the collected data, the article suggests a number of different ways to enhance the small trader’s acquisition of English speaking skills.

Keywords: Small traders, Hanoi’s Old Quarter, English language acquisition, international tourism.


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