LINGUIST List 14.2537

Wed Sep 24 2003

Sum: Vietnamese English Translation

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Francisco Dubert, Vietnamese English Translation

Message 1: Vietnamese English Translation

Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 10:34:37 +0200
From: Francisco Dubert <>
Subject: Vietnamese English Translation

Some time ago, a student of my program asked to the list a query about
problems in translation of Vietnamese (Linguist 14.1913). She received
an answer from Rebecca Larche Moreton, and she wants to send this
response as a summary. She wants aslo to show her gratitude to
Rebecca Moreton.

The response is:

To the student who wanted bibliography on "problems American
linguists had in translating Vietnamese to English during the war
in Viet Nam"

I may be mistaken, but I do not think there is any bibliography on
this subject, at least not in the way the question is stated. The
problem was rather that at the time the war started, very few
Americans knew Vietnamese and there were no significant numbers of
Vietnamese nationals in the country. There were no programs in
universities teaching Vietnamese in the U.S. However, because Viet Nam
was a recognized nation, the language was taught to very small numbers
of diplomats and military people by the U.S. government, since there
had to be Americans speaking the language at least at the U.S. embassy
and any consulates in Vietnam. Once the war started, it iimmediately
became a top priority matter to expand the teaching of Vietnamese. The
Vietnamese program at the Foreign Service Institute (a part of the
U.S. Dept. of State in Washington, D.C.) was greatly expanded; other
programs included those of the Defense Languages Institutes, with
sites in Monterey, California, and Washington, D.C., for military
people, and there were probably other official sites such as those of
the National Security Agency and the C.I.A., also located in or near
D.C., as well as in other schools that I might not be aware of
(perhaps the FBI, for example). In addition, government employees were
sent to private language schools in the Washington, D.C. area to learn
Vietnamese, because there was not room for them in the government
schools. In addition, volunteers in community development
organizations (the Peace Corps was not allowed into Viet Nam, but
other non-governmental organizations sent volunteers) were also
trained to speak Vietnamese. The language programs were all intensive
(government and military people studied Vietnamese for seven or eight
hours per day for four to nine months or more, in very small classes,
with specially prepared material and trained native speakers, under
the supervision of linguists (i.e., what the government calls
"scientific linguists," people who are experts on the structure of
Vietnamese and on the most efficient ways to teach that
language. Through these efforts, quite a lot of people learned
Vietnamese in a very short period of time; I would not be able to give
actual numbers, but such information and more would be available to
you from the Foreign Service Institute in D.C.

Francisco Dubert Garc�a
Departamento de Filolox�a Galega
Universidade de Santiago de Compostela
15782 Santiago de Compostela (Espa�a)
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