Vietnamese community celebrates two significant language and literature projects


In the best spirit of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, members of eleven Vietnamese community organizations gathered last Saturday afternoon at the Vietnam Center to celebrate their shared work in two major Vietnamese language and literature projects.

This special event was well received from the entire Minnesota Vietnamese community, with members spanning generations and backgrounds to share and learn more about the work to preserve a language form and an archived magazine – both of which are most likely not even found in Vietnam any more.

The Institute of Vietnamese Studies and its leaders offered presentations regarding Vietnamese culture, language and the contributions of Nam Phong Tap Chi, a popular magazine in the early age of the national literature of Vietnam. Issues are hard to find and its age needed to be both preserved but also to be more accessible to Vietnamese.

Mr. Phan Tam, director of Vietnam Minnesota Radio on KFAI, and a freelance journalist for Vietnamese publications, offered a perspective on the contents of a CD-ROM now available with archived issues of Nam Phong Tap Chi from 1917 through 1934.

Mr. Phan said that the CD-ROM plays an important role in preserving literature for the Vietnamese in Vietnam and in the world.

Mr. Phuc Nguyen, a software engineer, was present to talk about his volunteer effort to scan some 37,000 pages of the magazine and three related books.

Mr. Nguyen Minh Lan, director, Institute of Vietnamese Studies in Westminster, California, was present explained the goals and mission of the Institute to promote the culture, language and history of Vietnam. The organization conducts many activities including trainings, conferences, workshops and many projects such as create audios, videos, publishing and operates a huge library in Santa Ana, California.

Mr. Pham Tuan of Maryland, a music composer, was present as the youngest son of the late scholar Pham Quynh, who was killed by Communist regime in 1945 because his knowledge of literature and as founder of Nam Phong magazine. Mr. Tuan is a living witness of the operation of this magazine and his late father.

A panel discussion shared information about topics including the newly published Tu Dien Chu Nom (demotic script dictionary).

Prof. Nguyen Ngoc Bich from Virginia who is one of the founder and teacher of the Institute and the president of the National Congress of Vietnamese Americans, explained how the demotic script was used in Vietnam and that although no longer used today, it remains an important transitional part of Vietnamese history and literature. For researchers and others who look at older Vietnamese publications they may find characters they would otherwise not identify without the dictionary.

There was an exciting discussion between the four speakers and 150 participants toward the related topics. Many expressed a sense of great satisfaction with the release of these collections that preserve what would sure have been a loss of a great cultural legacy.