An official ceremony took place at the Ha Noi Opera House yesterday to celebrate the 42nd International Francophone Day on March 20.
Culture Vulture chatted with Anissa Barrak, Asia-Pacific director of the International Francophone Organisation (OIF), about the place that Viet Nam plays in the Francophonie.
Could you tell me about International Francophone Day in Viet Nam?
It was first organised on March 20, 1994, the day the Asia-Pacific Francophonie office opened in Ha Noi.
International Francophone Day has, however, been celebrated around the world since 1980.
The Day offers an occasion to celebrate values such as solidarity, humanism, equality, respect of sovereignty and cultural identity.
Do you believe Viet Nam capable of contributing to the promotion of cultural diversity?
Absolutely. As you know, Viet Nam signed the UNESCO convention on cultural diversity, adopted in 2005 as the result of a long battle in promoting and preserving culture around the world.
In the country itself, respect for cultural diversity is also remarkable. Viet Nam is home to many ethnic minorities that have diverse languages and cultures.
We wish to develop exchange between Asia, Africa and Europe in efforts to increase the dialogue on culture.
This year, the Francophone film festival will feature two Vietnamese entries entitled Tam Hon Me (Mother's Soul) and Mui Co Chay (Scent of Burning Grass) alongside performing artists from the Congo, Chad and Belgium.
I believe there can be no successful political dialogue or economic co-operation before cultural understanding is first reached.
What role does Viet Nam play in Francophonie?
Viet Nam has always played a central role as one of the founder members in 1970.
It is among five countries in the Asia-Pacific region that are members of Francophonie, which includes 75 countries in total. It plays an important role for is position, its geography, and the number of its inhabitants. As a member of ASEAN it constitutes a link between Francophonie and South Asia.
Thanks to the Francophonie programme, students in 92 primary and secondary schools in 17 different provinces of the country are taught in French while it is taught as a speaking subject in 40 out of the country's total 63 provinces.
French opens the door to scholarships, excellent training programmes and opportunities to study at Francophone universities at very low cost.
What place does French have in the world?
It occupies an important place. There are currently 220 million Francophones in the world. French is the ninth most spoken language in the world, and one of two, with English, spoken on five continents. It is the second most spoken mother tongue in the EU after German, followed by English.
French is the official language in 32 Francophonie member countries. — VNS