Vietnamese Language Takes Flight in Austria

The Vietnamese community in Austria organizes meaningful events to celebrate the beauty of the Vietnamese language and raise awareness, particularly among the younger generation.

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The project ‘Day for Honoring Vietnamese Language in Vietnamese Communities Abroad’ has garnered strong support and consensus from many Vietnamese people living overseas. The Vietnamese community in Austria has shown their commitment to this cause by organizing Vietnamese classes and establishing Vietnamese bookcases in local libraries.

In December 2023, several Vietnamese books were added to the shelves of Kinderbücherei der Weltsprachen Library in District 14 of Vienna, the capital city.

This initiative originated from Vietnamese women who reside and work in Austria. Their early accomplishments received significant backing from the Vietnamese Embassy and the local community.

Introducing Vietnamese Books to Austrian Libraries

Preserving national cultural identity has always been a priority for the Vietnamese community in Austria. In addition to successfully integrating into society, they have contributed to the economy and enriched the cultural landscape.

In recent years, the Vietnamese Embassy and the local community have undertaken various activities to promote traditional culture and preserve the Vietnamese language. The main objective is to educate the young Vietnamese generation in Austria about their roots.

Vietnamese books displayed at Kinderbücherei der Weltsprachen Library in District 14, Vienna.

In an interview with World & Vietnam newspaper, Vietnamese Ambassador to Austria Nguyen Trung Kien expressed his belief that establishing the ‘Day for Honoring Vietnamese Language in Vietnamese Communities Abroad’ is a crucial and timely initiative. Vietnamese serves as a language that connects Vietnamese people around the world, regardless of their background, location, and generation.

However, teaching Vietnamese in Austria poses significant challenges, particularly for the second and third-generation Vietnamese individuals who were born and raised in the country. The embassy recognizes the importance of mobilizing and raising awareness among the community to instill interest in learning Vietnamese.

Ambassador Kien shared that Vietnamese people are deeply patriotic and are concerned about preserving the Vietnamese language for future generations. Some parents make considerable efforts to encourage their children to interact with each other in Vietnamese. However, not all families have been able to achieve this.

Vietnamese language class at the Vietnamese Embassy in Austria.

Recognizing the situation, the embassy has actively engaged with fellow countrymen, youth associations, students, and especially the Vietnamese Women’s Association in Austria. Women play a critical role in raising children and preserving traditional values, including the Vietnamese language.

The Vietnamese Women’s Association in Austria hopes to see Vietnamese books available in numerous libraries across different districts, including the Austrian National Library.

They acknowledge that achieving this goal is challenging and requires collaboration from multiple stakeholders. Vietnamese Ambassador Nguyen Trung Kien expressed his full support and willingness to assist in any way possible. This model should be replicated in Vietnamese communities in other countries.

An Integral Part of Daily Life

In addition to the Vietnamese bookcase project, women in Austria are actively involved in organizing Vietnamese language classes for children.

Ngo Bich Thuy, the president of the Vietnamese Women’s Association in Austria, shared that before the outbreak of Covid-19, the association conducted Vietnamese language classes at the Vietnamese Embassy. As a result, Thuy’s daughter gained confidence in communicating in Vietnamese when she returned to Vietnam.

However, the classes were disrupted due to the complex nature of the pandemic. Financial constraints, availability of teachers, and transportation posed challenges to sustaining the education program.

In September 2023, the association partnered with the University of Social Sciences and Humanities to offer a Vietnamese language teaching and learning program for children and teachers, using standard textbooks from Hanoi National University.

While promoting access to the free online program, they recognized the need for face-to-face classes to enhance Vietnamese language learning effectiveness.

Thuy expressed her joy in finding competent teachers, and the association will cover teaching costs using its funds. The embassy will provide support in terms of classrooms and books. The association plans to launch a Vietnamese class for children under 15 years old in March.

In addition to Vietnamese classes, the association has scheduled various activities for 2024. These include performing arts during the Lunar New Year community celebration, making banh chung (traditional sticky rice cakes) for children, and introducing Vietnamese cuisine to 25 different countries in Austria.

The association continues to organize monthly book reading sessions for children during winter, as well as outdoor picnics combined with traditional culinary exchanges and folk games on International Children’s Day on June 1.

Vietnamese women in Austria have demonstrated unwavering dedication and patience in preserving their mother tongue and Vietnamese culture.

When Thuy’s daughter started first grade, she refused to learn Vietnamese and insisted on speaking only German. However, after attending a Vietnamese class, her interest gradually developed. Whenever she returns home, she practices speaking Vietnamese.

Thuy also joined a group of 10 Vietnamese families with a rule that when their children meet, they communicate in Vietnamese. Additionally, she allows her children to watch Vietnamese television programs. Consequently, they now speak Vietnamese fluently.

Not experiencing the same level of success as Thuy, Nhung, the vice president of the association, hopes her child will improve in speaking their native language. “Even though their father is a foreigner, they are still half Vietnamese. We continue to use fish sauce in our daily meals.”

Hai, married to an Austrian husband, explained that learning Vietnamese has been a longstanding challenge for her family. She shared that her children struggle to understand their identity, whether they are Austrian or Vietnamese. Therefore, her children attend Vietnamese classes and engage in regular conversations at home, as it helps them practice their mother tongue and understand their heritage.

Hannah Nguyen