In the fall of 2013, at the “13th IM Japan Writing Contest” – a contest organized by the International Manpower Development Organization, Japan (a.k.a. IM Japan) – “The Color of My Life,” an essay by Vietnamese national TRAN Minh Hoang, won first prize. Many people were touched by Hoang’s ability to write beautiful Japanese and by his idea of expressing his feelings about life up until that time in colors.
Through a Technical Internship Program that was set up by the Japanese government, IM Japan accepts numerous highly skilled interns sent by the governments of Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Taking advantage of this scheme, Hoang came to Japan in June 2011 with 12 colleagues. He’s now receiving technical training at MHI Ship & Ocean Engineering Co., Ltd. (a.k.a. MSK) in Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture.
Located at the Nagasaki shipyard of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., MSK engineers and manufactures tankers, container ships, cruise ships, and more. Trainees like Hoang learn manufacturing skills like welding.
Hoang says, “The Japanese language is difficult, especially honorific expressions.” MSK encourages trainees like him to study by providing them with two Japanese lessons a week and advising them to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
By responding to the company’s expectations that he take an interest in Japanese and throw himself into his studies, Hoang has been seriously applying himself, sparing no effort. He has thus far managed to pass the notoriously difficult N2 grade (second highest qualification) Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
Before reaching that level, he drew strength from the encouragement of older colleagues. They not only guide trainees at work, but also take an interest in their health and daily lives. Hoang says of his group leader KANAZAWA Akira and manager UEDA Yosuke, “They are like real family.” At times they seriously reprimand him, telling him that “Alcohol and smoking are bad for you.”
Hoang will soon finish his three years of training and return home to Vietnam. “I’ll be glad to see my family back home, but I’ll be sad to say goodbye to the folks at MSK,” he says. After returning home, he wants to build on the language and professional skills he acquired in Japan and work towards building ties between Japan and Vietnam. His dream is to someday return to Japan and open a Vietnamese restaurant in Nagasaki.
In “The Colors of my Life,” Hoang writes, “From now on, I don’t know what colors my life will be painted in, nor do I have any idea of what kind of painting it will be in the end, but I’m learning to enjoy my growing maturity through the study of the Japanese language. Why don’t you try learning a foreign language yourself? You’ll certainly encounter a new you.”