Vietnam War, Vietnamese Diaspora, And the Politics Of Vietnamese Language

Mr Quang Van1

1Yale University, New Haven, United States

This paper identifies different linguistic forms and practices among Vietnamese diaspora in North America, Australia, and Europe and the state of Vietnamese language education abroad and its politics. It also attempts to offer solutions to some of the issues or concerns. It can be generalized that Vietnamese heritage learners’ knowledge and experiences are products of unique linguistic and historical situations. From this outlook, scholars and educators have argued that in order to respond to the identities and linguistic needs of Vietnamese heritage learners, teaching materials should reflect, preserve, confirm, and be relevant to the historicity and experiences of heritage learners. This will allow them to feel at home, safe, authenticated, and empowered. One dominant position among Vietnamese diaspora has shown a resistance to any attempt to appropriate, teach, or use expressions considered pro-Communist or products of the Communist rule in Vietnam. This resistance is not purely political in nature. It can be read as an attempt to build legitimacy to the former Republic of Vietnam or a desire to preserve the Vietnamese refugees’ language, identity, and collective memories. Regardless of the reasons, this linguistic attitude raises important questions concerning linguistic convention criterion for correct and incorrect use of language, along with assumptions about language and meaning. It also raises serious questions about diversity. Perhaps Wittgenstein’s view of language and his opposition to private language and rule-following criterion presented in the Philosophical Investigations can offer a way out of these problems. Besides linguistic, political, cultural, and other practical concerns, this issue has direct implications relating to the teaching of Vietnamese language to heritage and non-heritage students in America, Australia, and elsewhere.


Quang Van teaches Vietnamese language and literature at Yale University. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from University of Oregon.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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