Vietnamese farmers learning English as part of tourism project

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Nguyen Duc Nha makes a bed in his home in preparation to receive visitors as part of a new homestay tourism project in Quang Nam Province

A homestay tourism center has officially opened in Quang Nam Province, expecting to draw travelers with its famous Cham temple, My Son, in addition to its fresh air and green scenery.

With the hopes of earning money from the projected tourism, many old farmers are taking English classes, despite not having so much as touched even Vietnamese books for decades, according to a Dan Tri report.

Nguyen Duc Nha, 54, called starting to learn English at his age "torture."

But Nha is still going to his English class in My Son village of Duy Xuyen District every evening, hoping the new skill will bring him more money than his hoe or plough currently do.

"Now after several weeks, I can say some expressions to greet foreigners such as "˜Hello' or "˜How can I help you?'" he said.

The English class which 30 local farmers attend opened in late February, with support from the International Labor Organization.

It is part of the project to attract foreign tourists and promote local culture with the hopes of increasing the earning potential of residents; given that the area's mountainous conditions are not conducive to agricultural production currently locals' sole source of income.

Since UNESCO granted My Son world cultural heritage status, tourists have been visiting the cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples constructed between the 4th and the 14th centuries, despite a lack of accommodation, with most of them staying in 50 kilometers away in Hoi An 50 or in nearby Da Nang.

A trial program has provided five families with a total of US$15,000 to make home improvements, such as installing new toilets and air-conditioners in the bedrooms slated to host foreign guests.

Ho Cu, 50, from one of the families, said the project is meaningful to farmers like him. "Now besides field work, families like mine can have another source of income."

Vu Van Nhat, another member of one of the selected families, is also optimistic.

Nhat said although locals lack tourism experience and speak very little English, their humble friendliness will satisfy visitors.

"We will introduce them to local delicacies, the culture of daily life and local nature spots," he told Dan Tri.

The project will provide services that cause little negative impact on the environment such as climbing and boating.

It will be extended to 30 families, many of which are already in the process of cleaning up and renovating their homes.

After My Son, two homestay centers will open in June in Dong Giang District, where people from the Co Tu ethnic group will host tourists.

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