Tây Bồi Pidgin French

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

Tây Bồi, 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, French people had male household servants, due probably to the fact that no Vietnamese would ever think of letting their daughters/sisters/wives work for foreigners. The term is used by Vietnamese themselves to indicate that the French language spoken is very 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 satisfying degree and therefore cannot be confirmed.

"Bồi" is not the Vietnamese phonetisation of the English word "boy", as customarily accredited to the word[citation needed]. It originated from the Sino-Vietnamese word "Bồi" (陪) which means "to serve" or "servant"[citation needed]. As "Tây" (西) meant "West." Therefore the compound Tây Bồi is a pure Sino-Vietnamese word (陪西-French servant) and not a mix of French and Vietnamese.

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 also, if they could pass an entrance examination, tailored to their age and grade level. The Vietnamese elite class spoke French well, 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 as a second language.

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) [1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tây Bồi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Tay Boi". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.