Thursday, August 5, 2010

French influence on Vietnam

The French influence on Vietnam is still evident today, albeit small. Baguettes are sold in the street, old men on push bikes speak French and wear berets and colonial style architecture stands throughout the inner city. It's an obvious dwarf of colonial times and the Vietnamese are definitely carving a new future and moving in their own direction but the little things are still there. There is little desire to learn French here, with one main language school the only option. English is in great demand with countless schools throughout the city and more popping up all the time.

What surprised me, and Celine, was the language and the similarities to French.

Vietnamese is written in Latin alphabet. There are 22 letters as per the English alphabet with the exception of f, j, w, and z. There are seven modified letters which this damn post won't let me upload. They are modified versions of d, a, e, o, u and make for a very difficult time when trying to pronounce. Celine and my Vietnamese teacher had a great old time listening to me trying to learn how to pronounce them.

Apparently this system was developed originally by Portuguese missionaries and then later adopted by the French under colonial rule with the intention of breaking links to China and encouraging Western ways. This is now the main language in Vietnam today.

The Vietnamese have many borrowed words from the French language and only with practice of our pronunciation have we realised many of them.

For example in one of our Vietnamese lessons, Noppie (The Nickname I gave to my Vietnamese teacher) was teaching us vocabulary from the bathroom. Xà-bông is soap and despite the spelling, is the same as the French savon. Celine, has come across many of these similarities in our time here.

To read an interesting article and understand more about some of the borrowed French words in the Vietnamese language check out this article from the Taipei Times:

What's that 'Pho'

1 comment:

  1. Interesting, as a Vietnamese native I never knew about French being incorporated into the Vietnamese language ^-^;, thank you for enlightening me further on this subject. Bel article, j'aime bien lire ces. :) Also I noticed you went to Saigon, I'll read that one next!