World Book Day:

Increasing trend in reading original-language books among young Vietnamese readers

WVR - Reporting from several foreign books distributors, the number of young readers who love to read books from original languages (mostly in English and French) has rose remarkably. They have diverse tastes and demands in book genres, from textbooks, handbooks, literature, science, history, philosophy, meditation, etc.
Increasing trend in reading original-language books among young Vietnamese readers
Increasing trend in reading original-language books among young Vietnamese readers: Readers visited foreign language bookstores like Blue Horizon to select their favorite original French or English titles during the celebration week of Vietnamese Book Day and World Book Day (April 2024). (Photo: Huong Do)

According to the Education First (EF) organization's assessment, in 2023, the Global English Proficiency Index (EPI) indicated a 9-point increase in English proficiency among Vietnamese individuals, ranking 7th out of 23 countries in Asia and showing a continuing upward trend. This is also one of the contributing factors to the increasing trend of reading foreign language books in Vietnam.

In recent years, the explosion of the publishing industry and the fantastic utilities of the digital age have allowed Vietnamese readers to freely choose and enjoy publications from both domestic and international sources. Besides the significant number of works translated into Vietnamese, the domestic book market has witnessed the trend of readers seeking foreign-language books or purchasing English titles for their children.

Ms. Huong Lan, owner of the foreign language bookshop shares: "After 5 years since establishment, I have noticed a significant increase in the number of readers, especially the young generation aged 18-35. Starting with 500 titles for children initially, we have expanded to 5000 foreign language titles, including English and French, to meet the demands for reading, entertaining, and researching for people of all ages."

In reality, in today's "flat world" where information updates and knowledge exchange happen actively and instantly, young people in Vietnam are always attuned to new global trends, from movies, music to books. Understanding this mindset, many foreign language bookstores have been opened. In Hanoi alone, there are many bookstores such as Blue Horizon Books, The Bookself, The Last Page, The Bookland, MaryBook, and Sleepy Cat Bookstore with a rich inventory, updating the latest works, trends, and knowledge of the world, catering to the interests of domestic readers as well as the expatriate community living in the capital. The needs for various book genres have also evolved over the years, from the well-known fiction titles of initial interest including literatures and novels for young adult readers, to extensive demands in several nonfiction topics like philosophy, psychology, history, geography, science, as well as self-help books on meditation and productivity improvement.

A significant part of young readers are proficient in English and French from their school days, so reading books in their original language is no longer too challenging. Gia Linh, a 12th-grade student of RGSV International School, said that her interest in reading foreign language books comes from the joy of expanding her English vocabulary, as well as her personal liking, since reading books that have already been translated is not as satisfying as the original ones.

A survey conducted by Q&Me about the foreign language learning habits of Vietnamese has showed a result that English takes the majority as the most-learned language, with 86% among the respondents. About the dominance of this language, Ms.Huong Lan, also the Vietnam representative of MM Publications, shared her experience: “Blue Horizon has the opportunity to collaborate with numerous English language teaching institutions nationwide. The small and medium range English centers are opened continually to meet the needs of learning and getting English certification. From preschool to adults, everyone considers learning English essential and is willing to invest in textbooks and materials for mastering the language.”

In this context, it is natural to describe the trend of reading foreign language books as an effective supplement in learning, allowing learners to both entertain themselves and practice language skills while exploring useful ranges of knowledge.

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