I’ve become a white person over the past few years and I thought I’d share some of the things I learned.
There are many white people in the world who do not speak Vietnamese, and I have yet to meet a black person who speaks Vietnamese. This might be because there is something about the Vietnamese language that appeals to white people. I think this stems from the fact that, unlike people who are half-white, half-Asian, or white-skinned, they speak Vietnamese.
I’m sure there are many reasons why. I would, however, like to speculate that one reason is because Vietnamese is the language of the Viet Nam War. The Vietnamese were heavily oppressed by French colonialism and the French hated Vietnamese so much that they would not speak Vietnamese in public.
In the same way that people who don’t speak Chinese or Japanese (because they fear that a lack of proficiency in those languages will somehow make them less Chinese or Japanese-like) also fear speaking their native language, the Vietnamese people who speak Vietnamese are also afraid of speaking their native language because it is what they’ve been calling, and always have been called, the language of oppression.
The French were the first to call the Vietnamese a “people of a people of a people of a people”. This was because the Vietnamese had no concept of a national language of their own; they knew of French, but not French for people. But it wasn’t until the Vietnamese learned English that they were able to call themselves a “people of a people of a people of a people”.