Bouathib Vilaysack, 35, is a Lao lecturer at Laos’ Champasak University and is regarded as the 'ambassador of Vietnamese' due to her lecturing in the Vietnamese language for nearly 10 years.
She speaks Vietnamese with a Hue accent which makes Vietnamese visitors to her university feel more at home, friendly, and pleasant.
“I am not good at Vietnamese,” Bouathib responded to compliments on her excellent Vietnamese speaking skills.
As a lecturer at the university for 12 years, she has taught Vietnamese and introduced a close partnership and friendship between Vietnam and Laos.
As a main interpreter at Champasak University
When working as a volunteer in Laos, Truong Van An, deputy secretary of the Youth Union at the Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City, was especially impressed by the Lao lecturer speaking Vietnamese with a Hue accent.
She enthusiastically supported his team and acted as an interpreter.
“Her Vietnamese speaking and listening skills are really good, particularly her Hue accent," An said.
“She can also tell jokes in Vietnamese. We were extremely touched and happy to see a Lao person speaking Vietnamese in her own nation.
“In our first meeting with Bouathib Vilaysack, we were surprised by her excellent Vietnamese pronunciation.
“However, she is very humble when being complimented, explaining that she sometimes speaks and translates Vietnamese incorrectly."
In the past, as her job required regularly working and communicating with Vietnamese people, she attended a nine-month Vietnamese course at the Vietnamese language center of the university.
Bouathib won a scholarship from the University of Sciences under Hue University, located in Thua Thien-Hue Province, and came to Vietnam to study.
After two years’ efforts in study and research, she completed a master’s thesis on world history and returned to her country to continue her teaching.
She is now in charge of interpretation of events and translation of agreements and documents. She also supports foreign groups who visit the university and organizes volunteer activities there.
“I hope to make a minor contribution to the friendship and solidarity between Vietnam and Laos," said Bouathib.
“I am looking forward to welcoming many groups of Vietnamese teachers to expand the Vietnamese teaching program and other in-depth courses."
'Try and try every day'
Bouathib said that sometimes she found it tough to interpret when some Vietnamese people spoke fast or used long sentences.
Vietnam has many different accents and dialects due to its diverse regions.
When she first acted as the interpreter for a president of a major university in Ho Chi Minh City, she felt nervous and lacked confidence in her ability.
However, she was encouraged and supported by her friends and colleagues to keep going, recounted Bouathib.
To do it well, the Laotian woman meets and chats with members of each group to learn more about their culture and working styles before an official session starts.
“It is a tough job, but I tell myself to try every day," she stressed.
“Luckily, during my Vietnamese studying period, I always got wholehearted support from Vietnamese friends and teachers.”
Aside from her Hue accent, Bouathib is ceaselessly improving Vietnamese vocabulary and experience, and learning more about different accents of Vietnam’s regions.
She reveals that her secret of learning Vietnamese well is regularly listening to Vietnamese music and watching TV programs with Vietnamese subtitles.
|A picture showing Bouathib Vilaysack acting as the interpreter for a group of Vietnamese volunteers in a Vietnamese class. Photo: Ha Thanh / Tuoi Tre|
Knowing Vietnamese personality to learn the language well
Known as the 'ambassador of Vietnamese' in Laos for her efforts in teaching Vietnamese to Lao students and using the language for work for a decade, Bouathib could feel the difficulties facing learners of Vietnamese.
The biggest challenge of learning Vietnamese is the homonym, she said.
As such, she often takes her students to many places where Vietnamese people live and work in Laos to communicate with them to get accustomed to the Vietnamese language with various accents and dialects.
Apart from introducing Vietnam’s culture and the close partnership between the two countries to her students, she also shows them video clips on Vietnamese cuisine, culture, and costumes in class.
“To learn Vietnamese well, it is necessary to understand the Vietnamese personality,” she affirmed.
When studying Vietnamese, she learns from Vietnamese friends and tries to understand the Vietnamese working culture.
When hosting a reception for guests from Vietnam, including officials and residents, who entered Laos for work, she learned countless useful lessons on the Vietnamese language and problem-solving skills from them, she said.
Nguyen Thai Cuong is a lecturer at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Law and a Vietnamese friend of Bouathib, who has joined numerous volunteer activities in Laos and worked at Champasak University for many years.
He said that she often told him about the challenges facing Lao students in practicing Vietnamese, so he encouraged Vietnamese volunteers to communicate and chat with her students to help them improve Vietnamese.
“Students are excited and pleased to see groups of Vietnamese people visit the university as they really like listening to native Vietnamese speakers,” Bouathib said.
Unforgettable memories of Vietnam
Her biggest joy in learning Vietnamese is making friends with many Vietnamese people from several parts of Vietnam, including Ho Chi Minh, Hue, Da Nang, and Dong Thap.
She and these friends and teachers in Vietnam frequently exchanged knowledge about teaching experience, she recounted.
“I have many unforgettable memories in Vietnam," she said.
“While studying in Hue City, taking sightseeing tours to Ho Chi Minh City and joining a training course in Hanoi, I met many Vietnamese teachers who were truly friendly and enthusiastically supported me.
"They also advised me to frequently practice speaking Vietnamese."