Bilingual Street Signage for Ho Chi Minh City

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South Vietnam metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City will introduce bilingual signage in Vietnamese and English to allow foreigners to more easily navigate, according to a proposal by the city’s transport department. One of the complaints to be often heard from tourists visiting Vietnam’s largest city is about the inability to orientate in town as most signs are to complicated to understand.

Streets signage is a first step in the right direction. Samples of the new future street signs are currently in display for the public. According to an official of the management office for road traffic infrastructure, which operates under the city’s Department of Transport, sample street signs written in both Vietnamese and English can be seen at the department’s headquarters, and the department is welcoming public feedback.

The new designs also include the city’s logo. The measure seems reasonable but it could be seen as a political issue. For now many decades, the national standard for road signs makes no mention of the inclusion of a foreign language, a decision taken also to promote Vietnamese language and at the same time to show the lack of influence of foreign cultures over the country’s daily life.

Last December, the municipal Department of Transport sent a letter to the Ministry of Transport and the Directorate for Roads of Vietnam, requesting approval to display the city’s street signs in English.

The request was made for the second time in March, but so far there had been no response from the ministry, explained Nguyen Vinh Ninh, director of Urban Traffic Management No. 1 to local newspapers.

Tran Doan Phi Anh, the former director of the South Centre for Transport Research and Development, said the proposal to add English to Ho Chi Minh City’s network of traffic signs could be considered as urgent.

Not only will they allow foreigners to better obey traffic regulations in Vietnam, but they will also be beneficial to the city’s economy and tourism in the long run, Anh said.

He suggested trialing the plan in the downtown area before launching a city-wide renewal.

Another move in the right direction would be to put bilingual signage on some of HCMC buildings. The city centre has a range of beautiful buildings, often built during the colonial times. However, many of them are restricted to photography but it is mostly hard to guess for foreign tourists as the function of the building -for example such as a military or police institution- is generally written exclusively in Vietnamese. Bilingual signage would then avoid confusion and also for visitors to be confronted with police forces vociferating orders not to take pictures…