BLC Travel Grant Report

This year the AAS (Association for Asian Studies) Annual Conference was held in San Diego, March 21-24. I myself took part in a roundtable titled “New Approaches to Teaching Advanced Level Vietnamese Language to Heritage and Non-Heritage Students.” A short abstract of our discussion can be found online, at, and conveniently included below for your perusal:

This roundtable discussion attempts to introduce and discuss creative ways in which Vietnamese language teachers can incorporate teaching Vietnamese culture and society into the Vietnamese language curriculum for advanced level heritage students and non-heritage students. Incorporating culture into the Vietnamese language teaching classroom does not only facilitate language acquisition for language students, develop “grammatical” competency, enhance and enliven the classroom environment and activities, or serve as a therapy but also—borrowing Wittgenstein’s language—opens up a “multiplicity of the linguistic uses.” Discussants will introduce several performance-based and interactive approaches to language-learning process targeting advanced-level heritage and non-heritage students. In the end, the discussants will entertain the idea of a collaborative project to create an advanced level Vietnamese reader textbook in which Vietnamese customs, beliefs, rituals, symbols, norms, knowledge, practices, conventions, songs, proverbs, etc., can be appropriated into the Vietnamese language teaching.

As one of the discussants, I presented a paper titled “Teaching Advanced Vietnamese at SEASSI.” (SEASSI is an acronym for the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute, currently housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.) In case you are interested in the subject, here is a brief summary of my talk:

At SEASSI we regularly offer 3 levels of Vietnamese. The first two levels have been using non-authentic materials for the most part. So far authentic materials that we use in addition to our non-authentic texts consist of proverbs and folk poetry. Nonetheless, at the advanced level, students are encouraged to choose their own authentic texts to introduce to the class on a daily basis. Over the years, students of Advanced Vietnamese at SEASSI have proved that they have quite a broad range of reading interests: folk tales, contemporary poetry, contemporary short stories, current events, historical figures, musicians and their works, etc.

I also had the opportunity to attend the GUAVA (Group of Universities for the Advancement of Vietnamese in America) and COTSEAL (Council of Teachers of Southeast Asian Languages) business meetings, as well as a few of the 374 panel sessions covering an incredible number of interesting subjects. I particularly enjoyed the panel titled “Routes of Engagement: Vietnam and the Vietnamese Diaspora,” Parts A and B. Again, a short abstract of the papers presented can be found online, at, and conveniently reprinted below:

At a growing estimate of 3.5 million at the turn of the twenty-first century, overseas Vietnamese across the world have become an important focus for Vietnam for numerous reasons. This double panel grapples with the multivalent relations between a heterogeneous overseas Vietnamese population and Vietnam as an ‘ancestral land’ and a nation-state in the aftermath of war and Doi Moi. We ask the questions: how do the Vietnamese and Vietnamese diaspora imagine and approach the other in the past and the present? Through which routes and for what purposes does Vietnam engage its diverse overseas populations? How do overseas Vietnamese relate to Vietnam on personal, collective, historical, political, social, economic, and cultural terms? Crossing thematic, geographic, and temporal borders, this multi-disciplinary panel addresses these questions and raises others, as it aims to foreground the significance of Vietnam to overseas Vietnamese and vice versa, especially in the contexts of nation-building, capital flow, global migration, and community formations. As a group, the papers in this panel also cross-disciplinary boundaries by bringing the fields of Vietnamese Studies and Vietnamese Diaspora Studies into conversation.

The AAS Annual Conference is always an unforgettable experience, even though it can also be overwhelming in terms of its numerous panels. Carefully choosing which sessions to attend well in advance of the event is a good idea, but once you are at the conference, you will still find yourself frantically running around trying to squeeze just one or two more panels into your already packed schedule, for missing out on a great paper will make you feel miserable for days afterwards. There is one solution to this predicament though: you can try to get a copy of the paper and digest its content on your flight back home.