Ha Noi Scribbles on tivi

Vietnamese telly is brilliant if, like me, you speak only a smattering of Vietnamese and don’t mind being baffled a lot of the time.

The news on VTV is now a firm favourite. If I don’t see Phuc, the prime minister, within the first minute I start to conclude he is finally getting a day off to go fishing. But, by way of constructive criticism, perhaps we could do with fewer shots of people sitting round tables at meetings. To be fair, though, there may be sound editorial reasons for this.

If you like your newsreader wearing a military uniform, you are in luck there too. A reminder, perhaps, of where we are.

Chung toi la chien si presenters

The presenters of  VTV’s Chúng tôi là chiến sĩ

While you may get an inkling of what the news is about, a far greater challenge are the soap operas. Even though you don’t follow much of the dialogue it is easy to get sucked into the action. In the absence of any useful level of Vietnamese comprehension there is a tendency to project your own interpretation onto the events unfolding before your eyes. Five minutes later you discover you were completely wrong about the plot and so-and-so is not getting married to that girl, it’s the other one. Or to the guy you assumed, naively, was the best man.

When this kind of revelation derails your own narrative it is arguably more interesting than the actual script.

What is more disconcerting, though, is the dramas or films that are dubbed into Vietnamese. By one female voice. Doing all the characters. From six year old girls to middle aged men. Does the budget not stretch to at least two voice artists? I can’t be the only one who finds the gruff male lead speaking with a squeaky high-pitched voice a touch distracting.

Vietnam also appears to be in love with talent shows. Mainly these tend to be localised versions of UK and US shows. Two personal favs are Bước Nhảy Ngàn Cân  (Dance your fat offand the locally grown Chúng tôi là chiến sĩ, a ‘Vietnamese military has talent’. By far the best bit is when Chúng tôi là chiến sĩ winners are given a prize of a clock, presumably with which to keep track of their 18 month-long National Service.

For maximum weirdness, for native English-speaking Westerners at any rate, is Scooby Doo in tieng Viet. Fast forward to 2:00 minutes. Full marks for the
Shaggy voice.

Ultimately watching local telly is a good way to pick up more of the language. If you don’t improve your Vietnamese language skills, you will at least get a better insight into life here in Vietnam. And hopefully understand just a little more than you would by staring at Vietnamese posts on your Facebook timeline.


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