A growing number of young Vietnamese are using English acronyms in cyberspace and even in real life, leaving their parents scratching their heads in many cases and giving great cause for their concern.
Apart from using a huge chunk of Vietnamese acronyms to serve as shorthand and keep their parents clueless about what they are talking about, local youngsters now also adopt more English acronyms just to be cool and stylish or show off their English command to their peers.
The trend is particularly common among students of international schools and universities.
Popular acronyms currently favored by local youngsters while chatting, texting or surfing on social networks include PLZ or PLS (Please), BTW (By The Way), OMG (Oh My God), WC (Welcome, Webcam), LOL (Laugh Out Loud), RELA (Relationship), CFS (Confession), 19 (One Night), 29 (Tonight), ASL (Age, Sex, Location), INB (Inbox), and PM (Private Message).
They also coin new phrases which combine Vietnamese and English words haphazardly, such as “Oh My Chuối [Banana]” or “Oh My Chúa [God]” as derivatives of “Oh My God.”
Many forums regularly post articles which constantly update newly-coined Internet acronyms so that new members can understand them.
Cool, instant and keeping parents clueless
Most youngsters find using acronyms, including English slang, an inevitable trend in today’s cyber-world and fast-paced real life and in circumstances where they want their messages to be instant, cool, and incomprehensible to attentive parents.
“It’s really fun and also time-efficient to text acronyms. That allows us to convey long content – even a poem sometimes – in the 160-character limit of a cellphone short message. It also cuts down the number of messages considerably and thus saves time and money,” Vi, a 23-year-old college student, said on a local newswire.
The girl often sends and receives messages to and from her friends by combining an assortment of acronyms, symbols, and self-coined English phrases, which parents or less tech savvy adults may find perplexing and annoying.
Vi’s elder brother lamented that though he is only three years older than her, he usually finds her messages hard to decode and therefore has to phone her to clarify the meaning.
Ngo Tuan Anh, a student at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that writing in acronyms helps save time while texting or giving comments on Facebook.
Writing in a conventional way slows the writer down and causes one’s comments to lag behind those sent by others. The writer’s comments may also get out of the place when the topic is switched to another quickly.
N. M. T. and Tran Anh Toan – two students from other universities – said acronyms are easy to decipher and they seem more polite when it comes to foul or obscene language.
“We actually wish to create our own niche, either in the virtual or real world, where only peers can understand and relate to one another. It’s best that adults, particularly parents who persistently keep tabs on their children’s social life, can’t decode our language,” said Kieu Vu Huong Giang, a high school student in Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City.
Irreversible trend, but…
The trend of using acronyms leaves parents on edge and poses a growing concern for linguists who are keen on preserving the purity of the Vietnamese language.
Yen, who works part-time as a tutor in the English subject, said she was once at a loss when the mother of the eight-grader she was tutoring questioned her teaching quality as the teenager wrote “Thax U” instead of “Thank You.”
Tran Kim Hue, who lives in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, lamented she was shocked at the incomprehensible acronyms and symbols her child uses on his Facebook.
She later found out that the acronyms convey abusive language.
Many other parents are also increasingly concerned and even startled to read the acronyms and language their children adopt on their Facebook.
Such acronyms have made their way to students’ literature assignments, even among those learners in rural, remote areas.
Truong Kim Nguyet Linh, a literature teacher at a high school in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap, said that she sometimes stumbles upon incomprehensible acronyms while marking her students’ papers.
Linh only found out what these abbreviations mean after she set up her own Facebook account, and learned that her students’ language command has been impacted to a certain extent by their Internet language usage.
Le Ngoc Nga, a student at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Law, said she was dismayed learning that one of her classmates, who is a class leader and appears well-mannered, used indecent acronyms on Facebook.
Acronyms could be indicative of creativity
According to Associate Professor Hoang Anh Thi, director of the Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanities’ linguistic application center, said youngsters’ common use of acronyms is an inevitable trend in this modern, ever-changing society.
Languages in other countries such as English and Japanese also have new derivatives when it comes to the Internet and cellphone texting language.
Dao Le Hoa An, of the Vietnam Association of Social Psychology, said the coinage and adoption of acronyms are indicative of creativity and receptiveness to new things.
She acknowledged the trend’s convenience in that they offer a shorthand for communication meant to be quick and instant, especially on social media and texting apps.
An urged that the fad should not be seen as a cause for undue concern, as the abbreviations are used mostly in spoken, informal language only.
The psychologist advised that parents not to fret over that and keep such close tabs on their children’s social life.
Instead they should befriend their children and allow them a niche of their own in which they can freely express themselves with proper parental guidance.
“However, the young themselves should rein in their use of such acronyms, particularly those in foul and obscene language, to minimize adverse impacts on their behavior and actions in the long run,” An admonished.