Updated: Nov 21, 2018
Twenty-six years after being one of the first four officials to study in the ELTO programme, Mr Nguyen Tam Chien was back on campus celebrating his daughter’s BA degree and reuniting with his teachers.
This visit, Mr Chien met with his teacher, Jo Hilder and also tutor, Carol Legge, who is still with the ELTO programme.
He is full of gratitude to New Zealand for that opportunity to learn English here and what it meant to him and others in their careers. At the time there was an enormous need in Vietnam for government officials to become fluent in English so the country could make a start internationally after the war.
After studying here Mr Chien was posted as Ambassador to Japan and later, to Washington DC. He is now a senior advisor at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam. Japan was the first to lift the embargo on Vietnam and when Mr Chien took up his post in Japan, the development assistance Japan had provided to Vietnam was resumed. They gave assistance in the form of 6.3 billion in cheap loans from 1992-1995 to help get the economy going again.
He arrived in Washington as ambassador two weeks before 9/11 and was only the second ambassador to the US following the reunification of Vietnam in 1975 at the end of the war. During his term, the bilateral trade agreement (BTA) came into force, and Vietnam was accepted to WTO.
Before coming to New Zealand Mr Chien had studied in Russia and his language learning strategy there was to practise by speaking to locals on the street. “But in New Zealand, I couldn’t find anyone on the street!” However he made friends with his fellow Weir House residents and the staff, as well as being well supported by friends of ELTO in the community.
New Zealand’s people and education system made such a good impression that he sent his daughter Tam Huong to study here. He and his wife Lien Huong were in Wellington to celebrate her graduation with a BA in International Relations and Political Science. She is hoping to follow in her father’s footsteps as a foreign ministry official for Vietnam.