"Messengers" bring Vietnamese language to Italy

Friday, 05/05/2023 15:30
“I struggled to go around all parts of Italy to build movements of learning and preserving Vietnamese in the Vietnamese community, and to encourage Italian students who love Vietnam to learn Vietnamese. Finally, after nearly a decade, I have also done a little to contribute to the development of the Vietnamese language learning movement, preserving the soul of Vietnamese culture in Italy,” Le Thi Bich Huong, a lecturer from Ca' Foscari University shared.
Lecturer Le Thi Bich Huong and Vietnamese and Italian students perform in the "Vietnamese Soul" program. (Photo: VNA) 

It is an honor for the great hearts of the "messengers", the mission of spreading Vietnamese culture in Italy. They are Vietnamese lecturers and students who are dedicated to building and developing Vietnamese culture and language, contributing to building friendship bridges and sustainable development of strategic partnerships between Vietnam and Italy in the present and in the future.

At Ca' Foscari University, we have directly met such "messengers" of Vietnam-Italy friendship, such as Professor Richard Tran Quang Anh, lecturer Le Thi Bich Huong, and some students just coming from Vietnam to study in Italy, especially lecturer Le Thi Bich Huong. She comes from Viet Tri, Phu Tho province, but mainly lived in Sen Ho, Viet Yen, Bac Giang provnce when she was a child. It is also the hometown of one of the 49 ancient Quan Ho villages.

She said that her father is an electrical engineer but actively composed, then joined the Vietnam Musicians Association. Her mother was one of the founders of the Quan Ho Club in the village. As the one who put new lyrics for songs to the tune of Quan Ho folk songs, and at the same time her mother opened a free Quan Ho class for more than 50 children in Sen Ho village. Her uncle is Tran Linh Quy, a Quan Ho researcher, former principal of Ha Bac Art High School. Another uncle is Tran Minh Chinh, a PhD in cultology and folklore researcher, who has a rather massive and elaborate study on Quan Ho folk songs.

It is perhaps the reason why the Quan Ho folk songs themselves have been absorbed into her bloodline since she was a child, so when she came to Italy, she was like a "singer", always flexible and integrated teaching Vietnamese and Quang Ho folk song singing at the same time for students and scholars, and Italian friends who love Vietnam. And more preciously, lecturer Le Thi Bich Huong is always enthusiastic, responsible, wholehearted for the cause of spreading Vietnamese. She is willing to teach overtime for free when there is an event and put all her efforts and personal money to organize events to promote Vietnamese culture in Italy.

In 2005, when Huong was working in Brazil as the Executive Director of the Italian-Brazilian Cooperation Project, a French-Vietnamese woman living and working in France asked her to teach Vietnamese language so that she can talk to her relatives in Vietnam on the occasion of her visit to Vietnam. After that, she taught a few more people also with the aim of helping them talk to their relatives in Vietnam. After 10 years working in Brazil (2005-2015), she returned to Italy. She found the Italian-Vietnamese cultural bridge association and started teaching Vietnamese as a volunteer teacher for the association. In her opinion, one more person who knows Vietnamese means one more person who knows about Vietnam. In order to be able to teach Vietnamese language, she attended a training course in Vietnam for overseas Vietnamese language teachers organized by the Vietnamese Government through the State Commision for Overseas Vietnamese. Then she taught Vietnamese to adopted Vietnamese children in Italy in a project sponsored by the city of Bologna.

From 2019, the Vietnamese language faculty was established, she applied and was recruited as a Vietnamese practicing lecturer for the Vietnamese language Faculty at Ca' Foscari University until now.

Ms. Huong also frankly shared that compared to Vietnamese teaching at home, Vietnamese teaching here for Italian students is very difficult, so she has to improve how to teach it effectively. Specifically, Vietnamese is a new subject and compared to other Asian languages, Vietnamese language has not yet been developed, the number of students enrolled is still very small compared to other subjects such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages.

It is also very difficult for foreigners to learn Vietnamese because Vietnamese has many tones. So she used Vietnamese traditional musical instruments to help Italian students imagine the difference between tones due to different accents. This is a specific teaching method, applying "creativeness" which she named “Tung Cac” Pronunciation Teaching Method.

On the other hand, Italian students when applying to study Vietnamese language, all want to know about Vietnamese culture. Therefore, compared to other universities in Italy with Vietnamese subjects, Ca' Foscari University is the only place that provides students with knowledge about history, literature, economics, and geopolitics, art and every aspect of Vietnamese culture. In addition, the number of hours studying Vietnamese is not as many as other subjects. There are two sessions per week (theory and practice), and each session lasts two hours.

Therefore, we diversify forms of transmission to help Italian students both easily learn Vietnamese and absorb the Vietnamese cultural characteristics through genres of traditional Vietnamese folk songs and theater such as: “Quan ho”, “Cheo”, “Cai Luong”, ancient “Tuong” and water puppetry, or through the poems of famous poets known to the world such as Nguyen Binh, Ho Xuan Huong and especially the Tale of Kieu by the great writer Nguyen Du.

Ms. Huong excitedly said Italian students are very studious and show their love for Vietnam by welcoming and actively participating in extracurricular cultural activities initiated by her. Especially through learning to sing Vietnamese folk songs, the students had participated with great passion and responsibility.

Chiara Lacrimioara Venturi, a student learning Vietnamese language at Ca's Focari University (Photo: Tran Doan)

“When I chose to study Vietnamese at the age of eighteen, it was for many reasons. First of all, I was attracted by the history of Uncle Ho's country: knowing the language is necessary to penetrate the culture of a country, especially an ancient country like Vietnam. Regarding this, I am glad that after only a few months, I have a broader view of many historical events,” said Tommaso Becchi, a student learning Vietnamese language.

Postgraduate Pham Hung Vuong (second from left) (Photo: Tran Anh)

Pham Hung Vuong, a postgraduate at Ca'sfocari University from Thai Binh province, said that he is very interested in teaching Vietnamese here, which always attracts Italian students. He sometimes teaches his Italian colleagues and some international friends simple Vietnamese sentences to communicate. They are very excited to learn because they have learned and heard about Vietnamese tourism, cuisine, and especially the country of Ho Chi Minh.

Nguyen Thi Hien Thao, a Vietnamese student at Ca's Focari University, presents the head of the CPV delegation a painting “Vietnam-Italy flow” 
The painting “Vietnam-Italy flow” 

Directly exchanging with the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) delegation led by Secretary of the Party Central Committee (PCC) Nguyen Trong Nghia, the leaders of Ca' Foscari University in Venice all confirmed that the Vietnamese language subject has been developed well and the university will continue to support the maintenance and development of Vietnamese language here.

Professor Richard Tran Quang Anh (Photo: Tran Duc Anh) 

Dr. Ngo Thi Minh, Deputy Minister of Education and Training, shared with University leaders, lecturers and students at a meeting with a leaders from the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research on April 17, 2023, the two sides agreed to advise the two countries' ministers to promote cooperation in education; promote the results, continue to implement the action plan of the two governments on educational cooperation in the period of 2019-2022, especially promoting cooperation in language, educational development and scholarship provision.

Secretary of PCC Nguyen Trong Nghia and the delegation take a photo with leaders and lecturers of Ca's Focari University. (Photo: Tran Anh) 
Secretary of PCC Nguyen Trong Nghia takes a photo with Vietnamese and Italian lecturers and students. (Photo: Tran Anh) 
Dr. Ngo Thi Minh, Deputy Minister of Education and Training works with the leader from the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (Photo: Tran Anh) 
Delegations of CPV delegation exchange with lecturers and students of Ca's Focari University. (Photo: Tran Anh) 

It is hoped that the career of teaching and learning Vietnamese in Italy will open up a new future. If countries with a large number of Vietnamese people develop a movement of teaching Vietnamese and have "messengers" to spread Vietnamese language and culture like in Italy, it will be so practical. Only then, in the long – term, can the Vietnamese community retain the national soul and be a bridge of friendship with host countries./.