HA NOI — A workshop to discuss the significant contributions of scholar Nguyen Van Vinh to the development of the Vietnamese modern written language was held on Friday in Ha Noi.
Entitled Nguyen Van Vinh and The Journey of Romanised Vietnamese Script, the workshop gathered prominent Vietnamese researchers and historians who all stressed Vinh's important role in spreading the Romanised Vietnamese script at a time when Nom, Chinese-based ideograph script, had been the norm for more than 1,000 years.
A national-level scientific committee charged with valuing Vinh's cultural career and his efforts to popularising the romanised script in the country is expected to be formed in the future.
Discussion also surrounded the role of the romanised Vietnamese script and a proposal was made asking the State to select a day as the National Day of romanised Vietnamese script.
Vinh (1882-1936), who was born to a poor family in Ha Noi, was the top student at the College des Intrepretes (College of Interpreters) in the city during the 1893-95 class. He then worked for different French authority offices in the North as an interpreter before moving on to open the city's first printing house in 1907.
At the same time, Vinh published the Dai Nam Dong Van Nhat Bao newspaper, which means "the daily of Dai Nam with the use of a common language". The newspaper was the first publication in the romanised Vietnamese script in the North.
During that time, Vinh also joined movements against the colonial authority that led to the forced closure of his newspaper by the French in 1908.
From 1908-19, he published Notre Journal (Our Daily) and Notre Revue (Our Magazine) in French and Luc Tinh Tan Van (Modern Literature of Six Southern Provinces), and the weekly Dong Duong Magazine in Vietnamese.
In 1927, he founded the La Pensee de l'Occident (Western Thinking), which published his classic translated books by great French writers such as Honore de Balzac, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, La Fontaine and Moliere.
Forced into bankruptcy in 1932, Vinh immigrated to Laos where he died of malaria in May 1936 while working on his memoir Un Mois avec des Chercheurs d'Or (A Month Living with Gold Hunters).
The romanised Vietnamese script was created by a French missionary, Alexander de Rhodes, who was on a mission in Viet Nam from 1624-30. He then published the first trilingual Vietnamese-Portuguese-Latin dictionary in Rome in 1651. — VNS