The Curious Case of a 5-Year-Old Vietnamese Boy Who Speaks Perfect English But Not Vietnamese

Le Nguyen Bao Trung, aka ‘Bin’, is a 5-year-old Vietnamese boy who reportedly spoke his very first words in English despite never having come into contact with the language. Today, Bin speaks and reads perfectly in English, but is only just learning Vietnamese so he can communicate with his mother.

Born in Dong Van village, in Vietnam’s Ha Tinh province, Bin said his first word when he was almost two years old. You could say he too a while, but no one knows if that was when he said his first word, it was just when people noticed it. His mother, Le Thi Lien, recalls that the boy kept pointing at a calendar and saying ‘Eleven’. She didn’t speak any English and mistook the word for mere babbling, but Bin kept saying it so she asked her older daughter about it and learned that it meant 11 in English. She went back to the calendar and saw that it did in fact show the 11th of the month. But that was only the beginning of this unusual story.

Le Thi Lien recently told Vietnamese reporters that she was so amazed by Bin’s ability to recognize and pronounce 11 in English that she took the calendar and showed him other numbers to see if he recognized them. To her surprise, the toddler recognised and pronounced all the numbers from 1 to 30 in perfect English. After that, she went out and bought him the English alphabet, as well as coloring books and children’s exercise books in English. Today, at age 5, Bin can read in English, can name the English term for virtually any item, but is only learning to speak Vietnamese.

In her interview with Vietnamese media, Bin’s mother could barely hold back her tears when asked how she communicated with her son. She didn’t speak any English and he didn’t speak Vietnamese, so in the beginning all they had was sign language.

“I do not understand, I would shake my head and say ‘I don’t know,'” the woman said. But she couldn’t let things stand, so she started learning English. Every night, despite coming home tired from work, Le went online and took basic English lessons, wrestling with the different grammar, pronunciation and even letters. It took a while, but she was eventually able to communicate with him.


Kindergarten was a tough experience, because Bin didn’t understand Vietnamese and also complained that the teacher spoke English incorrectly during English class. His mother talked to teachers at the Foreign Language Center, who, after testing Bin, said that his skills were advanced and he needed to study at an English school in a big city. So she took him to a school in Ho Chi Minh City, where a native English speaker gave the boy a 49-question questionnaire, and he answered every question right.

The English teacher praised the boy and welcomed him at the school, but the monthly tuition was 7 million Vietnamese dong ($300), which Le Thi Lien simply could not afford.

Luckily, Bin also started learning Vietnamese at the beginning of this year, so he and his mother can now communicate a little better. He’s still much better at English though, and his mother hopes to somehow help him take advantage of this amazing ability.


Interestingly, this is not the first such case we’ve reported on Oddity Central. Back in June, we wrote about Mahmoud O’Neal, a 3-year-old boy from northern Israel who spoke fluent English without ever having studied it.

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