Tây Bồi Pidgin French

Tây Bồi
Native to Vietnam
Extinct by 1980[1]
French Pidgin
  • Tây Bồi
Language codes
ISO 639-3 tas
Glottolog tayb1240[2]

Tây Bồi (Vietnamese: tiếng Tây bồi),[3] or Vietnamese Pidgin French, was a pidgin spoken by non-French-educated Vietnamese, typically those who worked as servants in French households or milieux during the colonial era. Literally, it means "French (Tây) [of- or spoken by] male servants (Bồi)". During the French colonization period, the majority of household servants for the French were male. The term is used by Vietnamese themselves to indicate that the spoken French language is poor, incorrect, and ungrammatical.

Tây Bồi may be related to "Français Tirailleur" - a pidgin language spoken by West African soldiers in the French colonial army approximately 1850-1960. This has not been investigated to a sufficient degree and therefore cannot be confirmed.

"Bồi" is the Vietnamese phonetization of the English word "boy", which referred to male household servants.[4]

The French government/colonizers or protectors opened French public schools [from pre-kindergarten through the Baccalaureat II] to take care of their compatriots/expatriates' children's education. The staff was all French. Vietnamese children were admitted as well if they could pass the entrance examination tailored to their age and grade level. The Vietnamese elite class spoke French, and those with French Baccalaureat diplomas could attend French universities in France and in its colonies. Today, in Vietnam, standard (Picard) French is taught in some schools and colleges as a second language in addition to English.

Tây Bồi is remarkably close to the stereotypical "broken" French spoken by foreign characters, such as in comics.


Tây Bồi Standard French Literal English English
Moi faim J'ai faim Me hunger I am hungry
Moi tasse Ma tasse Me cup My cup
Lui avoir permission repos Il a la permission de se reposer He have permission rest [noun] He has permission to rest
Demain moi retour campagne Demain, je retourne à la campagne Tomorrow me return [noun] countryside Tomorrow, I return to the countryside
Vous pas argent moi stop travail Si vous ne me payez pas, j'arrêterai de travailler You no money, Me stop work If you don't pay me, I'll stop working
Monsieur content aller danser Monsieur est content d'aller danser Mister happy to go to dance The gentleman is happy to go dance
Lui la frapper Il la frappe Him to hit her He hits her
Bon pas aller Bon, n'y va pas Good, not to go Good, don't go
Pas travail Je ne travaillerai pas No work I won't work
Assez, pas connaître Assez, je n'en sais rien Enough, not to know Enough, I don't know
Moi compris toi parler J'ai compris ce que tu as dit Me understood you speaking I've understood what you've said

(Bickerton 1995: 163)

See also


  1. Tây Bồi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Tay Boi". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Trần, Khải (23 May 2012). "Ông Hồ viết tiếng Tây". Việt Báo Online. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  4. John E. Reinecke. Pidginization and Creolization of Languages. Oxford University Press. p. 47.
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