Japanese expat falls for Vietnamese literature

Many foreigners profiled in this column consider Vietnam their second home because they have fallen for the landscape or the locals’ hospitality, but Kawarai Yushi, a Japanese expat based in Thua Thien – Hue, has fallen for Vietnamese literature.

Japanese expats at ease in Vietnam
Vietnamese and Japanese books on show in Hanoi

Japanese expat falls for Vietnamese literature
Kawarai Yushi poses with his teacher of Sino-Vietnamese characters, holding his favourite book - Nguyễn Du Toàn Tập (Complete Works of Nguyễn Du). — Photos courtesy of Kawarai Yushi

Yushi learnt about Vietnamese literature by chance when he visited a bookstore in Japan and came across the French version of the novel entitled Tố Tâm by writer Hoang Ngoc Phach, which, he said, is the main reason he decided to come to Vietnam to study.

“I read the translation of some novels and poetry, which made me cry all night. Although I used to major in theoretical astrophysics in England, I was familiar with literature as well; however, it was a shock to discover Vietnamese literature! How touching it is! I believe that it was my predestined affinity when I already knew French and classical Chinese which are necessary to understand Vietnamese literature,” Yushi said.

He first visited Vietnam in August 2010, after an invitation from a Vietnamese friend who was also an overseas student in England. At first, he never imagined he would study in Vietnam, but it was the locals’ hospitality and generosity enticed him to come back.

“Vietnamese people have strong bonds of family, relatives and friends. My friends gathered to celebrate my birthday, which I had never experienced in Japan, and it has become my unforgettable memory,” Yushi recalled.

Aiming to explore Vietnamese literature, he decided to apply for the Linguistics and Literature Department at Hue University’s College of Education. At present, the 31-year-old Japanese expat is doing an MA in Philology and will graduate this November.

Though Yushi is interested in Vietnamese literature, he admitted he was keen on reading classical literary works and seldom modern ones. Some of his favourite Vietnamese classical works include Lục Vân Tiên (The Tale of Lục Vân Tiên) by poet Nguyen Dinh Chieu, The Tale of Kiều by poet Nguyen Du or Chinh Phụ Ngâm (Lament of the soldier's wife) by Dang Tran Con.
Presently, the Japanese expat is planning to work with an English native speaker to translate Tố Tâm and other Vietnamese classical works into English.

“I have read many books and found out that Vietnamese have many interesting literary works which, however, have not been popular among foreign readers. I hope that more foreigners will understand more about Vietnamese literature, as well as the beauty of the country and people here,” he said.

Yushi is also among 21 writers contributing to the book entitled Chuyện Người Tây Ở Xứ Ta (Stories of the Foreigners in Việt Nam), which gathers the stories and views of the foreigners who have visited and fallen for the country.

Japanese expat falls for Vietnamese literature
Yushi graduated from Hue University's College of Education, majoring in Linguistics and Literature. He is doing an MA in Philology and will receive his degree this November.


To many first-comers to Vietnam, language is a difficult barrier to get over, but in only a month Yushi grasped six Vietnamese tones and 11 vowels which Japanese does not have.

 

“I have a policy of teaching myself the national language of the country I am going to visit. My first impression on the Vietnamese language was ‘melodious but difficult sounds’,” he said.

According to him, the largest difficulties in Vietnamese are its complicated pronunciations and abundant vocabulary.

“At the beginning, they did not know I was trying to speak Vietnamese but said ‘sorry, I do not speak English.’

“I always put the TV on to get accustomed to the pronunciation and observe how Vietnamese people move their mouth to mimic. Fortunately, my teachers did explain the pronunciation system to me in terms of English so I could learn it both in theory and in practice,” he added.

Besides literature, language is another of Yushi's passions and gifts. He can speak English, French, German and Vietnamese fluently, as well as communicate basically in Korean, Chinese, Thai, Lao, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian. He can also read Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Latin, ancient Greek, Sanskrit and Pali.

Yushi is presently enriching his linguistic capacity by learning the Czech language.

“I have learnt about 20 languages but find Vietnamese has the most difficult pronunciation system,” he said.

“I strongly recommend you should follow private lessons. You should watch how Vietnamese people use the mouth and mimic it. If your mouth gets very fatigued, it means you are learning Vietnamese well, since learning a foreign language requires you to use different muscles.”

After completing his masters in Vietnamese lterature, Yushi plans to do a PhD of Hán Nôm (Sino-Vietnamese characters) at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences in Hanoi this November.

“Hopefully I could become a lecturer at a university in Việt Nam. I intend to naturalise and stay in the country till the end of my life,” he said. VNS

Luong Thu Huong

 
 

Other News

.
What foreign ambassadors say about Vietnam's coronavirus fight?
What foreign ambassadors say about Vietnam's coronavirus fight?
FEATUREicon  29/05/2020 

It seems that Vietnam has adapted to a "new normal" state after it reopened the economy in late April.

Vietnam to study health standard validation before reopening to foreign tourists
Vietnam to study health standard validation before reopening to foreign tourists
FEATUREicon  27/05/2020 

With the Covid-19 pandemic under control in Vietnam, the country now seeks to breathe life back into its tourism industry.

The world in the post-Covid-19 era (Part 6)
The world in the post-Covid-19 era (Part 6)
FEATUREicon  26/05/2020 

Despite the best scenario, the consequences that the invisible Covid-19 enemy has caused to nations and international relations are severe, which will affect the world decades later.

Child-like man in Ly Son finds success in tourism
Child-like man in Ly Son finds success in tourism
FEATUREicon  25/05/2020 

A 34-year-old man with childlike appearance is a the successful investors in tourism in Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province.

Covid-19 pandemic: Policy responses to stop shutdowns
Covid-19 pandemic: Policy responses to stop shutdowns
FEATUREicon  25/05/2020 

The pandemic and the healthcare crisis it triggers have ignited an economic storm in many countries. If the economic turbulence is not managed well, it will lead to a financial crisis and/or a debt crisis. 

Researcher devotes 30 years to preserving Raglai ethnic language
Researcher devotes 30 years to preserving Raglai ethnic language
FEATUREicon  26/05/2020 

Mau Thi Bich Phanh has spent nearly 30 years of her life researching the value of the ethnic Raglai language.

Vietnam’s automation future at work
Vietnam’s automation future at work
FEATUREicon  25/05/2020 

Are robots coming to take Vietnamese jobs? Are iPads invading Vietnamese workplaces? 

The world in the post-Covid-19 era (Part 5)
The world in the post-Covid-19 era (Part 5)
FEATUREicon  23/05/2020 

Science and technology help people cope with pandemics like Covid-19 and help society adapt to pandemics.

The world in the post-Covid-19 era (Part 4)
The world in the post-Covid-19 era (Part 4)
FEATUREicon  22/05/2020 

American scholar Stephen Walt, a realist and an ardent supporter of nationalism, said the post-epidemic world is a world that is less open, less prosperous and less free.

From small teen to “natural born killer”: A Vietnamese boxer’s journey to Tokyo Olympics
From small teen to “natural born killer”: A Vietnamese boxer’s journey to Tokyo Olympics
FEATUREicon  23/05/2020 

Boxer Nguyen Van Duong is proud to be heading to Tokyo next year after defeating the renowned Chatchai-decha Butdee from Thailand in the Olympics qualifiers in Jordan in March, 

Cuban photographer yearns to return to Hanoi
Cuban photographer yearns to return to Hanoi
FEATUREicon  23/05/2020 

Neither the great distance nor the spread of the novel coronavirus stopped Cuban photographer Eloy Rodriguez’s from visiting Vietnam for a few weeks in early March.

Vietnam stands firm amid Covid-19 outbreak
Vietnam stands firm amid Covid-19 outbreak
FEATUREicon  20/05/2020 

Vietnam has recorded no new cases of COVID-19 infections in the community for more than 30 days. Quarantine has been lifted in high-risk areas and social distancing measures relaxed. 

The world in the post-Covid-19 era (Part 3)
The world in the post-Covid-19 era (Part 3)
FEATUREicon  21/05/2020 

Originally regarded as a "savior", the Covid-19 pandemic has created new skepticism, considering globalization as a "criminal" that spread the coronavirus epidemic across the globe and caused the current disaster.

The world in the post-Covid-19 era (Part 2)
The world in the post-Covid-19 era (Part 2)
FEATUREicon  20/05/2020 

Some questions must be answered clearly: Where and in what context did Covid-19 appear? Were the World Health Organization's (WHO) detection and warnings timely enough in preventing the pandemic outbreak?

Cooperation - key in Vietnam’s fight against COVID-19
Cooperation - key in Vietnam’s fight against COVID-19
FEATUREicon  19/05/2020 

The international community has attributed Vietnam’s remarkable achievements in taking on COVID-19 to the close cooperation between the country’s Government and its people.

President Ho Chi Minh lives on through the lives he touched
President Ho Chi Minh lives on through the lives he touched
FEATUREicon  19/05/2020 

It's been more than 50 years since President Ho Chi Minh passed away and school children still learn his poems, his biography and about his minimalist lifestyle. 

The world in the post-Covid-19 era
The world in the post-Covid-19 era
FEATUREicon  19/05/2020 

The coronavirus pandemic has not passed, but it has been and will leave severe consequences in all aspects of human life, as well as international relations.

When Apple comes to Vietnam and FDI flow starts moving
When Apple comes to Vietnam and FDI flow starts moving
FEATUREicon  18/05/2020 

Apple is making clearer signals in the production of components and products in Vietnam, opening up opportunities for Vietnam to participate more deeply in the global value chain.

Barber truck offers free haircuts to people in need
Barber truck offers free haircuts to people in need
FEATUREicon  16/05/2020 

There is nothing unusual about barbershops, but in HCM City there is a barbershop that moves.

Keys to nation’s investment optimism
Keys to nation’s investment optimism
FEATUREicon  15/05/2020 

Recent analyses by the World Bank indicate that Vietnam will be one the few countries in the entire world to experience positive economic growth in 2020.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN