(Translation: Lúc trước đẹp zai lém, bi giờ đỡ nhìu zồi = Lúc trước đẹp trai lắm, bây giờ đỡ nhiều rồi)
It’s hard to define “slang” as being in the category of design. But if a teenager doesn’t talk in slang, it doesn’t matter how hip s/he dresses up, s/he will be out of place. Teenagers are identified by this formula: Teenager = Fashion + Slang.
By design, slang is wittier than standard Vietnamese. A lot may disagree with me on this point since they are afraid that the Vietnamese teenager’s new language will compromise the teen’s ability to write and communicate. But now, the use of slang and abbreviations is not limited to e-mails, text messages or instant messages. It is showing up in kids’ schoolwork and college tasks. When teachers and parents take a peek at a teenager’s (9X, 10X) Twitter, Facebook, handwriting, or chat window, it may scare them to death. “It’s ALIEN language. I have no idea how to read it!”, my sister, a secondary school teacher in Nha Trang City cried. It’s no surprise that one of the top ten reasons adults hate teenage slang is because they feel cut off from their kids with all this texting and IMing that they can see but don’t understand.
Slang affects almost every field from education to advertising. Brands that target customers ranging from the age of 13 to 20 should change their tactics too.
(Beeline: A new phone service using slang in one of their TVCs)
Slang is seeping into youngsters’ daily language, and sometimes they inadvertently use it, even where it might be inappropriate. The conservative press and adults are stumped by teen lingo, and therefore show extreme hostility. However, teens still use it as much as they can in daily activities. In other words, they enjoy slang because it sets their generation apart from yours. C’mon, we all started using slang when we were in junior high, it just evolves with time.
Here’s a handful of IM lingo you may have seen somewhere:
(i=j, e=3, gi=z, với (with)= vs, o=0, i=1)
My sister acknowledges that she nor others can change the situation. She is now learning how to talk like her students. It blows chunks, and there’s a good reason. She is (we are) too old. It backfires when adults try to be “hip”. Her students laugh at her, but they accept her willingness to adapt with them.