German-born Ha Luong has never set foot in Vietnam, but she’s proud that she speaks fluent Vietnamese. Her parents moved to Berlin after marriage and raised their three children there.
“My parents thought that Germany would offer us a better life, and it actually did. But they also wanted us to remember who we are by blood and by heart – Vietnamese,” said 22-year-old Ha, adding that her parents would blast Vietnamese songs on weekends, so it would be easy for them to learn Vietnamese words.
“We all grew up hearing the Vietnamese language, so we just learned it naturally. I saw how my parents’ faces would light up every time we spoke Vietnamese at the dining table.”
There are more than 5.3 million Vietnamese overseas, living in more than 130 countries and territories across the globe. Many of them have kept the traditions and values of their homeland alive, and have passed them down to their children.
Some, however, chose to leave the “past” behind and absorbed the philosophies, ideals, cultures, and languages of their new home. It’s the best way to fit in and integrate into the world they now belong to, many said.
But the Vietnamese language, with its complex six tones that dictate the meaning of words, is an important part of Vietnam — what it’s gone through, how it’s progressing, and where it’s heading. Amidst the cultural and geographical differences of Vietnamese abroad, their mother tongue serves as the bridge that connects them.
This led the Vietnamese government to designate September 8 as the day for honoring the Vietnamese language in Vietnamese communities abroad. The celebration, which will be held annually starting this year, aims to teach the young generation of Viet Kieu, who may have never visited Vietnam yet, to learn more about their homeland.
“Through the project, we hope the Day for Honouring Vietnamese Language in Vietnamese Communities Abroad will become an important occasion in the cultural and spiritual life of overseas Vietnamese communities, with practical activities to highlight the beauty and richness of the Vietnamese language, spread the love of the mother tongue among overseas Vietnamese, especially young people, as well as foreign friends,” Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Hieu said.
By honoring their ancestors’ language, communities abroad will be able to build a stable, close-knit, and strong connection with Vietnamese people. “At the same time, it will help spread the policies of the Vietnamese Party and State as well as the Vietnamese culture to international friends,” he added.
September 8 coincides with the anniversary of the date the provisional government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam launched a campaign to eradicate illiteracy in 1945. It also honors President Ho Chi Minh’s call on September 8, 1962 to preserve, respect, and popularize the mother tongue.
The deputy foreign minister said Viet Kieu communities could turn the celebration into festivals to attract participation. Vietnamese embassies and representative missions are tasked to help organize the activities, such as art performances and competitions. Meanwhile, the Committee for Overseas Vietnamese Affairs will sponsor summer camps or training courses on the Vietnamese language and culture.