Language Trends in Vietnam


1. Preface
According to a Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, “By such innovations are language enriched, when the words are adopted by the multitude, and naturalized by custom.” Actually, there have been many innovations in every language all over the world, especially in the situation of growing globalization nowadays. The innovation can be the adaptation of foreign language, especially the technical words and common communication language. Moreover, it also can be the modification in the local language itself, which is facilitated by new technology, namely internet and mobile phones. The using of internet and mobile phones is so popular that people has created a system of alphabet and words for that community. It is unknown that who has created these modifications, however, it is obvious that it has been being widely spread out and accepted among the adolescence. This kind of written language system has been used unanimously.

2. Introduction
The trend of modifying written language has happened in Vietnam in recent years and caused many contrast opinions in the society. While the young people enjoy styling their written language, most of the older people feel inconvenient and dissatisfied with that type of writing. The modified Vietnamese has suffered a lot of criticisms from the rest of the society who do not use it. They has used many arguments and showed their opinions via the media like newspapers. Within a few recent years, there were many articles from both professional journalists, experts in different fields and the citizens published to criticize the modified language.

It seems to be a disagreement among generations and communities in Vietnamese society. Therefore, this research is to summarize the arguments from the opposers in various articles and provide some positive aspects of this trend then suggest some recommendations to bridge the gap between the two viewpoints.

3. Discussion of the real situation of modifying Vietnamese

There are many trends in styling the written language among the youth’s weblogs nowadays. Initially, the modification resulted from the adaptation to express the marks for changing in tone and some special words in Vietnamese. Specifically, the symbol “*” stands for the bracket in the letter “?” and “?”, “^” for the circumflex in “ô” and “â”, “(“ in “?”. As the time goes by, the modification becomes more and more complex and turns into a medium which not only to communicate Vietnamese fully but also to satisfy the creativity in using language of the young generation. It can be partly illustrated in the table below (Thy).

Original letters Modified letters Examples
Before styling After styling
a e làm sao lèm seo
ô
? u hôm nay
tr?i ?i hum nay
trùi ui
b p bó tay pó tay
qu w bi quan bi wan
c
ch k thích thik

ê i bi?t
ch?t bít
chít
ph f ph?i f?i
i j xinh xjnh
gi j
z gi?i thích j?i thik
d
v z vì v?y zì z?y

It is observed that some letters in the English alphabet is also integrated, namely “f”, “w”, “z”, “j”. The rule is that the substitutes all have the very similar pronunciations and the shorter writing styles in comparison with the original letters. For example, in stead of combining two individual letters “p” and “h” in order to create the complete letter “ph”, the English letter “f” can be used while the sound and the meaning of the words still remain fully (Thy).

It is not the first introduction of using English elements in Vietnam. That Vietnamese tend to replace or add some common English words in the conversations has appeared for a long time. And now, it is the turn of some English letters which have similar sounds and shorter length in use (“Bang chu cai danh cho chatter”).

In addition to the Westernization, another popular trend can be called “the numberization”. While the principle of Westernization relies merely on the sound, the numberization is more complex. It is implemented according to a variety of rules, often the association of both sound and shape, and even other languages such as English and Han Viet language. In term of shape, it is found that some letters have the similar shape with some correlative numbers; therefore, the idea of substituting some numbers is raised. In this case, many young people type “4” for “A” and “3” for “E” through many entries in their own weblogs. Besides, there are also several cases which is based on the sound, for example, in Han Viet language, the number “7” sounds like the word “th?t” which means loss or failure, therefore, “7 luv” is supposed to refer the lovelorness. Similarly, the word “chatting” can be only written down in the number “8” (“Bang chu cai danh cho chatter”).

While some ways to style the language rely on some rule, others are carried out without any reasonable reasons. In this way, some letters are replaced by other letters regardless of their different pronunciations, shapes, or origins. Indeed, although “a” and “e” are absolutely pronounced in different way, the youth still tend to substitute “e” for “a”.
The real situation of the debate in the press
Actually, in recent years, this trend has already become a controversial topic and be successively mentioned in various newspapers and magazines. Until now, there were at least 17 articles about this topic. The majority (53%) were against this trend. Among those oppose articles, 2 out of 3 were personal opinions of the authors and there were 2 authors asked for the professional opinions especially from the lecturers, teachers and professors.
In addition to the articles, some magazine, especially online magazines have collected the opinions from their readers. Last month, VnExpress received 36 responses for an article about this trend. Of the 36 people commented, up to 26 people, including 10 teenagers and adolescences objected to this modifications.

4. Opposed opinion from the articles
The first argument is that these modifications are destroying the pureness of Vietnamese. Do Tien Thang, linguistic lecturer of Vietnam national university, Hanoi, told in Family magazine that language results from the habit, if this kind of habit which does not conform any standard is not be criticized and abolished, Vietnamese will be variant dangerously.
Secondly, it is believed that these modifications are responsible for the poorness of soul, the lack of artistic, literary and linguistic skill among the people who use them frequently. According to Doctor Huynh Van Son, dean of educational psychology department, Ho Chi Minh City University of pedagogy, being under the influence of this kind of communication, people cannot be able to use and feel the beauty of their mother tongue (Mai).
Finally, there are many complains in the various articles that it is too complicated to understand a writing of people belongs to this trend, mostly the young people. There is an increasing of the modified words appear in the academic environment, even a very serious exam like the entrance exam (Quynh). That is the report of many teachers in different grades, from secondary schools to university. Linguist lecturer Do Tien Thang from National University, Hanoi claimed that he could not understand those exam papers to mark.

Those arguments lead to a common agreement that there must be some remedy for the problems. Many solutions rose by some professors that the mass communications should take the primary role in promoting a movement of using the original and official language. Particularly, professor Nguyen Nhu Y suggests launching a national program which involves the whole society, including schools, offices, newspapers, government and so on to orient the using of Vietnamese (Anh, Hoi)

5. Personal opinion about the situation
It should be aware that this trend has happened in not only Vietnam but also other countries in the world even for a long time. Typically, English chatters and bloggers must be very familiar with “2day”, “B4”, “XOXO”, “thx”, “CUL8R” or “x”. Moreover, these unofficial words can also be found in a very famous and prestigious dictionary published by Oxford University Press. In fact, this trend has spread out in each individual language whether it is Latin or hierograph. MA Pham Dieu Ngoc (Sungkonghoe University, Korea) told Student newspaper that in Korean, “kurotchi” which means “really?” is expressed by “kuchi” and son seng nim (teachers) supersedes “sem” and so on. However, the difference between Vietnam and these countries places on the way the society facing the phenomenon. While Vietnam criticizes and appeals to prevent it, others seem to be more optimistic and accept it. It leads to a suspicion that whether the arguments that people provide to criticize the new language style of the youth is totally true.

Opinion toward the arguments from articles
Firstly, scanning through many articles in different newspapers and magazines, some negative words such as “crisis”, “trash”, “dangerous” appear so frequently that we have reason to worry about the unbiasness of these. Indeed, among 17 different articles about this topic, up to nine of them used those unsympathetic words for when mentioning this trend. Of the nine opposed articles, the majority is purely personal opinions of the authors. Only the author of “Ngon ngu blog lam hong tieng Viet” included opinions from the people who using this kind of language, however, in spite of those advocates, the conclusion is still against this trend.

In addition, this trend cannot be blamed for the degradation of the young people’s soul and linguistic skill. Indeed, a recent study of Professor Sali Tagliamonte and Derek Denis of Toronto University, Canada can prove that truth. In their research work published in New Scientist magazine, the authors stated that these modifications not only have no negative effect on communicative competence of the youth but also give them a chance to play with language.

Some suggestions about the good side of this trend

The modified language has its own advantages toward the people use it, especially to the youth who is considered the founders of this language. It reflects the creativity to change the origins and the dare to express their thoughts regardless of many criticisms. It is also their adaptation to the technology and computer era. For example, when composing a message in a mobile phone, every letter “i” is replaced by “j” because it takes up to three time pressing the button to get “i”, while only one time for “j”. It is obvious that this adjustment aims to save time and bring about the convenience. The need of typing as fast as possible when communicating via the internet causes a trend to shorten many words. Following that trend, the diphthong such as “iê” becomes “i”, for example, the word “bi?t” is express by “bít” and the letter “n” in double consonants such as “ng”, “nh” disappears when it stands at the end of the words, for example “tr?ng tinh” turns into “tr?g tih”.
Beside the speed, these modifications also function as a means to show the emotion and the state of mind. Actually, the language used to communicate on the internet is mainly written language which easily drives the communicators to misunderstanding each other. It is impossible to guess whether that person is joking, sulky or angry by the rigid words. Hence, these modifications in written language can be counted as the tone in spoken language. MA Pham Dieu Ngoc also found out from his survey that because communicating in the internet is mainly through the carcass of letters, so people try to transmit the soul into them, make them lively.

That the youth has created a fresh system of letters and words in order to meet the demand of communicating conveniently can reflect a big change in the history, the era of internet and mobile phone. In fact, these modifications have appeared in the time that internet and mobile phone is largely used by the youth and also implements their functions via these media. If there were no Doi moi policy, no innovation in economy, no big improvement in living standard and no growing popularity of means of communication and information such as internet and mobile phone, there had been no modifications in Vietnamese at all. Therefore, it should be considered a part of the developing history of Vietnam, which reflects a big change in the face of the society just within some decades.

While many professors in various fields are worrying about losing the original language, they have no idea that they are also ignoring a part of current language which will be a part of history in the future, as an American poet and essayist in 19th century Lalph Waldo Emerson quoted, “Language is the archives of history.” Thailand has already experienced such situation when they now cannot understand some words in the documents from Rama V dynasty because the linguists in that time forgot to collect and transmit to the following generations. Therefore, to prevent the repeat of history, Thailand now starts to study and store the language of the youth (Phuong).

Recommendation
It cannot be denied that this trend contributes to cause the generational and intellectual conflicts in the society. The parents cannot understand their children’s language, the teachers cannot read their students’ papers and so on. This situation does happen due to the lack of the full awareness from the users. When asked about this problem in the survey of VNExpress, 10 people agreed that the problem lies on the behaviors of the users, not the modifications themselves. Not all of these people follow this trend but they all still respect it.

Therefore, if there is any national program for this phenomenon, it should be an orientation for the young people to use this kind of language in a right place and at a right time, not an absolute prevention of using it. It is not a difficult task because the thoughtless using can bring to the very users the immediate consequences such as bad marks, bad relationships and so on.

6. Conclusion
It is not easy for anything new to be accepted by the whole society. Despite many objections, there is nothing wrong with using some innovations in written language within a community and environment that all of the users and communicators can understand. Therefore, the experts should be fully aware of the current situation in order to define the right problem which does not lie in creating and using the modified Vietnamese but using it inappropriately. In my opinion, this kind of language should be let be in its own way because it only can exist if it is appropriate, if not, it will be eliminated and replaced by another trend.

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