Vietnamese spelling mistakes ring 'alarm': report

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Nearly eight percent of the words in Vietnamese texts are misspelled, according to a group of researchers who published their findings on Wednesday.

The report, issued by the Information Technology Institute, Vietnam National University-Hanoi stated that spelling errors in public banners, posters and government releases had reached an "alarming" level.

Spelling errors were equally prevalent in college and research institute texts, according to the report which was sponsored by VieGrid Company - an IT firm.

In the past six months, the investigators examined more than 67,000 texts from 177 sources.

Texts issued by the Food Safety and Hygiene Department under the Ministry of Health contain the most mistakes; 38.46 percent of words were misspelled. The Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute came in a close second at just over 31 percent.

Overall, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism topped the list, accroding to the newspaper Tien Phong.

The report found that the press and communications sector was responsible for the greatest number of errors while the Banking sector made the fewest.

30 percent of stories issued by the news websites VOVNews and VnExpress were found to contain spelling slip-ups. 

Doctor Nguyen Ai Viet, the lead author of the report, said he conducted a survey to ascertain an acceptable rate for spelling errors. Linguistics experts said one percent; IT experts responded between 2.5-5 percent, Viet said.

The experts said they considered a 10 percent margin of error "alarming." Howerver, they agreed that when a mistake is repeated and accounts for more than 30 percent of all noted errors, the mistake becomes accepted spelling.

Most of the mistakes pertained to the use of the consonants "x" or "s".

The word "xoi moi" (inquisitive) is spelled incorrectly as "soi moi," more than 74 percent of the time, so both are considered acceptable. Likewise, the word "xan lan" (bright) was spelled nearly 42 percent of the time as "sang lan."

Dr. Viet said his research group will continue to study the problem on a larger scale and plans to initiate a campaign to combat spelling mistakes.

He said it would be "very wrong" to view spelling errors as a minor issue.

The Vietnam News Agency quoted Dr. Viet as cautioning: "Law texts with spelling mistakes will affect residents' confidence. Newspapers and books with spelling mistakes will distort the information, leaving germs for the language and the thinking of younger generations."

He plans to continue updating his findings every three months. The results will be posted on www.xephangvanban.com.

Linguistics professor Tran Tri Doi from the Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanities told Dan Tri that, for the past two decades, government agencies have issued a lot of conflicting rules about Vietnamese language and spelling.

Doi said such an "inconsistent" system of standards cannot go on forever.

"It's time to set up a consistent and logical Language Law to apply all over the country," Doi said.

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