Tây Bồi Pidgin French
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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. It originated from the Sino-Vietnamese word "Bồi" (陪) which means "to serve" or "servant". 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)