Preserving Mother Tongue: Overseas Vietnamese Women in the USA

With a deep understanding of the importance of preserving and transmitting the value of the Vietnamese language to future generations, Ngo Kim Viet, a resident of Maryland, US for over 40 years, has dedicated herself to teaching Vietnamese courses to young Vietnamese Americans since 1995.

Ngo Kim Viet, a resident of Maryland in the United States for over 40 years, has been teaching Vietnamese classes to young Vietnamese Americans since 1995. Photo: VNA

Currently, there are nearly 200 Vietnamese language teaching centers and facilities in the United States, primarily in states with large Vietnamese populations such as California, Texas, and Washington. However, the majority of these centers still rely on volunteer teachers and operate under small-scale and self-initiated models.

At foreign language learning centers in the United States, Vietnamese language classes are typically offered to diplomats and Americans who plan to work in Vietnam.

Kim Viet’s involvement in teaching Vietnamese stems from her deep love for her homeland. She is committed to preserving and passing on the value of the Vietnamese language to younger generations of Vietnamese people.

Seeing Vietnamese-Americans gradually neglecting their mother tongue and the lack of Vietnamese language schools, Kim Viet took it upon herself to teach the language to Vietnamese families’ children, conducting lessons in churches.

In 2014, when her nieces and nephews returned home, they had to hire a Vietnamese language interpreter for their trip. This prompted Kim Viet to teach them the mother language through the Zoom application.

In her free time, she also teaches Vietnamese at language centers in the United States. She purchases Vietnamese language teaching books, as well as books on Vietnamese culture and history, and collects images and videos for her lesson plans.

Kim Viet was invited by the Vietnamese Embassy in the United States to participate in an online Vietnamese language class for overseas Vietnamese organized by the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“I teach Vietnamese through lessons on history and traditional culture, using images of festivals and the unique culture of Vietnam,” she said. Such an approach is expected to promote the image of Vietnam to international friends.

Her American students learn Vietnamese because they have a love for Vietnam and are drawn to its melodious intonation, which resembles singing. However, they do find Vietnamese to be a challenging language.

It is worth mentioning that overseas Vietnamese have found various ways to help their children speak and preserve the mother language. These seemingly simple actions contribute to the preservation of the Vietnamese language and promote the unique cultural traits of Vietnam to international friends.

Rosy Huong