Korean uses Vietnames fluency to boost cultural understanding

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A South Korean woman is establishing herself as one of the best foreign students of the Vietnamese language by getting a thesis published and translating Vietnamese novels into Korean.

Choi Hana is expected to publish next year her master thesis on Vietnamese and South Korean cooperation via official development assistance. Her thesis received 9.9 marks out of 10, the Tuoi Tre newspaper said in a recent report.

The 100-page thesis was assessed by professor Nguyen Quang Ngoc, head of the Institute of Vietnamese Studies and Development Sciences at the Vietnam National University-Hanoi, as "a perfect Vietnamese thesis written by a foreigner."

Ngoc said there were no typos and the thesis showed the author's very high command over the Vietnamese language.

The 41-year-old Choi Hana, now back in South Korea, is also translating into Korean the novel "Trong suong hong hien ra" (Beyond the Red Mist) by famous contemporary writer Ho Anh Thai.

According to Hana, the novel is an excellent depiction of modern life in Vietnam. The book has been translated into different languages, including Swedish, and has captured the interest of writers and social researchers in many countries.

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"I'm translating the book since I want Korean readers to understand more about the social situation in modern Vietnam," Hana told Tuoi Tre in fluent Vietnamese.

"I believe that Korean experts on Vietnam and Korean writers will be very interested."

Last year, Hana translated Thai's "Nguoi dan ba tren dao" (The Woman on the Island) and the translation has been well received by Korean readers, she said.

To gain her current mastery of the Vietnamese language, Hana has spent more than 20 years working hard, including weeks when she just stayed indoors and read Vietnamese theses written by Vietnamese professors.

Hana started learning Vietnamese when she was 19 years old. Her method was to read intensively and to practice writing as much as she could.

She recalled that during the first year of her master's course in Vietnam, she could not write anything.

In the second year, she consulted many language professors and they gave her their books and theses to read.

After weeks of reading, she continuously wrote nearly 30 Vietnamese essays in nine months, before finishing her own thesis successfully.

Hana said she had to pay a price for her focus on studying the language.

She gained a lot of weight and when returning to South Korea, doctors asked her to stop using the computer, stop reading books and walk more.

But the woman is still studying Vietnamese history under a South Korean professor.

"I want to know about Vietnam so that I can be a bridge between the two countries, and just to simply contribute something to Vietnamese society," she said.

Hana said she has many great memories with many friendly Vietnamese friends, and that she was lucky to start learning Vietnamese during the time the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992.

The woman has traveled throughout Vietnam and knows every street and alley in Hanoi. She has been an interpreter for many Vietnamese delegations to Korea and vice versa.

During her time of study in Vietnam, Hana was dubbed "Voi Coi yeu quy", which means "Dear Little Elephant," by her Vietnamese friends. She uses the Vietnamese nickname as her email ID.

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