Thursday, December 3 2020


Language the key to understanding culture

Update: May, 06/2018 - 09:00
Prof Dr Trịnh Văn Minh. VNS Photo Bạch Liên
Viet Nam News

Prof Dr Trịnh Văn Minh of the Việt Nam National University, Hà Nội, who is president of the Regional Committee of Experts of l’Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) (Francophone Universities Association) in Asia Pacific, was given in March the Honour Award of the Group of Francophone Embassies, Delegations and Institutions in Việt Nam (GADIF) for his important contributions to the development of the French language, and the values of Francophonie. 

The professor, who is author of a dozen books and about 30 scientific articles written in French and published in international and national magazines, speaks with Vương Bạch Liên on his love of the French language and his advice to young people seeking success in a globalised world.

Inner Sanctum: Congratulations on your recent award! Could you tell us how you felt on receiving the prize?

The award is an acknowledgment of my personal contribution to the development of the French language and the values of Francophonie. Over the last 40 years, I’ve occupied different posts including Head of the French department at Huế University of Education, Head of the Faculty of Education Management at the University of Education, which is connected to the Viet Nam National University, and President of the Regional Committee of Experts of AUF in Asia Pacific. I was really happy and touched to be honoured with this award and being able to contribute my modest part to this collective work.

Inner Sanctum: After a career of 40 years working with the French language, could you explain your reasons for choosing this path?

Choosing to learn French and later studying the language was destiny for me, but at the same time, a challenge and an interesting experience while most other people choose to learn English.

The influence of past family members is often decisive in the choice of jobs children choose. My family is no exception. My father studied French during the French colonisation, so the fact that I studied at the French department of the University of Languages and International Studies was an important thing for my family. Afterwards, my children and grandchildren also learned French. 

Another reason behind my love for the French language is that it is very interesting in terms of its strict structure and the rich cultural values that are conveyed through the words. Many literary classics and great philosophical works were written in French.

Inner Sanctum: For you, which song or book best reflects French culture?

People of my age had the opportunity to discover the French culture full of romanticism and humanism through literature we studied in school. Many masterpieces of French literature were translated into Vietnamese. Of which, I have been most impressed by the book Sans Famille (Nobody’s Boy) by Hector Malot, in particular the messages behind the destinies of human beings.

In modern French literature, the work L’Etranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus also helped me discover the complexity in human personalities and questions of existence.

And the song that I love the most is Les Feuilles Mortes (Autumn Leaves) by Yves Montand.

Inner Sanctum: Could you tell us more about your work? And how do you find the time for all your pursuits?

At the moment, I don’t take part in management work at the university anymore, I just conduct research and teach, as well as guide master’s and PhD students. 

I am also a member of the Scientific Council at the AUF (on a global level) and President of the Regional Committee of Experts of this association in Asia Pacific.

I give professional advice and evaluate the cooperation projects of AUF university members. Actually in Asia Pacific, AUF has 72 university members, most of them in Việt Nam.

And as President of the Orientation Council of the Asia-Pacific Regional Francophone Centre (CREFAP) – an affiliate of the International Organisation of Francophonie, I am a representative from Việt Nam contributing to build annual action plans, based on the educational and training needs of French language in each country. 

In reality, I spend most of my time on teaching and research at the university. The activities with other francophone associations do not occupy much of my time, and moreover, they can complement each other. For example, my management work and teaching at the university gives me experience in the work of consulting and evaluating scientific activities in cooperation with the AUF.

Inner Sanctum: What special qualities are needed to do those jobs?

I think that to be passionate and responsible are two of the most important things.

Faced with changes in society, besides mastering a foreign language, we should have a lot of knowledge and competence to adapt to the demands of globalisation. In this context, foreign languages are considered a tool for work, because if we only consider foreign languages as the final target, we may not be able to find a job easily.

Moreover, in this culturally diverse world, the fact that we only master one foreign language will limit our communication, and our ability to gain knowledge and experience from others which are conveyed in different languages. Language and culture are closely associated. If you can master another foreign language, you have another tool to discover international diversity, which is very important to achieve balanced and sustainable development.

Inner Sanctum: Is this also your advice to young people?

Yes. Mastering several foreign languages will multiply your job opportunities and personal development. For those who have learned French or are thinking of learning it, they should be aware that if they start with French, and then continue to learn English, it will be much easier than if they start with English and continue to learn other languages.    




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