German national Bernd Denken returned to Laos about a month ago. This time around, he is teaching English to monks and novices at Vat Inpeng temple in Vientiane.
The resident of Cologne said he was very happy and proud to visit Laos again and offer free courses to the monks.
“Even though it’s a small class and I have very little time, I like it because I am spending my time in this country usefully and I can contribute to human resource development in some way,” he said.
Denken, 72, is a friendly, talkative and generous man. He has never expected any compensation for his classes. He also offers free textbooks, copies of lessons and other educational materials to his students.
The monks, too, said they were very happy to learn English from him.
Despite his age, Denken is a very active person. He stays in an apartment in Khounta village, Sikhottabong district, which isn’t very far from the city centre, and walks to his classes every day because he likes walking and thinks it’s good exercise.
Since his first visit to Laos 12 years ago, he has returned to the country eight times. On each occasion, he has spent much of his time teaching.
Denken said, “During my first visit, I was in Vientiane and I liked visiting the temples. I met many monks and they asked me to teach them English, but I was hesitant at that time because I wasn’t an English teacher.
“I had taught children in Germany but only in the German language, not in English. However, I love teaching and the strong encouragement from the students and my friends inspired me to try teaching English. I liked it very much and so I have continued to do it since that time.”
During his last visit in 2013, he gave an English course for more than 10 students, including monks, novices and ordinary people who were very happy with his teaching.
Denken said he has returned to Laos so many times because he likes the country and its people as well as its charming culture.
Besides Vientiane, he has visited the two provinces of Luang Prabang and Attapeu. He hopes to visit other provinces in the future.
Soon after he arrived in Vientiane on Jan 27, he eagerly met his former students and made plans for a new English course.
A few weeks ago, while visiting friends in Attapeu province, he had the chance to give English lessons to students at a college there. The students were delighted.
Denken said he gave the classes because he loved teaching and sharing his knowledge with young people.
“I’m very happy to teach students and to see them enjoy the classes and how happy they are with my lessons,” he said.
“I enjoy teaching and don’t want anything in return. I hope my lessons can help them to improve their English. I like Laos and its people very much because they are always friendly and warmly welcome foreign visitors, including me.
“Each time I come here, I can see the difference made by development here. Laos, particularly Vientiane, is much more developed and modern than when I came here the first time. The development is very fast compared to the past. Of course, I will visit this country and teach students here again whenever I have the chance.”
Denken worked as a psychologist for a company in Germany before he retired 12 years ago. Now he works as a freelance psychologist and psychiatrist.
Even though he isn’t a professional teacher, the youngsters who attend his classes respect him as their teacher.
Novice Nounin Chanthaphone, one of the students who has been attending his classes, said he and the others were very happy to learn English from Denken because it was rare for anyone, particularly foreign visitors, to offer lessons to local people without expecting any compensation.
“We have learnt a lot of English from him over the past three weeks and we enjoyed the lessons very much. Even though he isn’t a native English speaker, Denken can teach very well and we understood all his lessons,” Nounin said.
“We have problems communicating sometimes because we aren’t very good at English and don’t understand all the words he uses but he tries very hard to make us understand.
“It is not only lessons from textbooks; he also shares with us general knowledge, such as things about his life and work, the situation in developed countries and around the world. We also have a chance to talk and exchange ideas about culture with him.
“The class is always joyful because he can make us smile or laugh while he’s teaching. It brings happiness to both him and his students.
“He is a very friendly, talkative, active and generous person. I would like to thank him on behalf of all the students. Of course, we will use the lessons we have learnt and continue to improve our English.”
Nounin added, “We hope he comes back and teaches us again in the future.” – Vientiane Times/Asia News Network