halong bay tour
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How do the Vietnamese feel about non-natives speaking their language?

4 Answers

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In 50 years of speaking Vietnamese in both Vietnam and Australia, native Vietnamese have only ever complimented me. They are usually surprised that I formally studied it in Australia, and usually ask me if my Vietnamese wife taught me. She didn’t, but I do learn new words from her, especially regionalisms from Nha Trang.

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It depends on the case:

1. If you are new to Vietnamese. Then the sound you make will be very funny. As you know, Vietnamese is a tonal language, if you put the wrong stress, the meaning has changed, so this will lead to humorous situations.

For example 1:

When you meet a pretty girl, you want to compliment her eyes on how big.

a. Mắt em to quá đi à! Your eyes is so big!

b. Mặt em to quá đi à! Your face is so big!

She will be very happy if you choose option a, otherwise she will be very angry if you choose option b.

For example 2:

When you meet a pretty girl, you want to compliment how beautiful her hand is.

a. Tay em đẹp quá chứ mà! Your hand is so beautiful!

b. Tai em đẹp quá chứ mà! Your ear is so beautiful!

She will be very happy if you choose option a, otherwise she will be very weird if you choose option b.

For example 3:

When you meet a pretty girl, you cannot be friends with her because she had a husband.

a. Vỡ mộng rồi! Broken dream!

b. Vỡ mông rồi! Broken ass!

Be careful when talking about your dreams in Vietnamese.

2. If you sound like Vietnamese. Then we feel very impressed. It is truly an extraordinary effort.

3. Vietnamese is an easy language to learn:

Latin characters, phonetic writing

SVO grammar like English

no tenses

no irregular verbs

no plural or singular

Have fun learning Vietnamese

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The Vietnamese people generally appreciate non-natives who take the time to learn and speak their language. However, as with any language, it is important to remember that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process and should be met with patience and understanding. Additionally, it is always respectful to make an effort to learn and use basic phrases and customs when communicating with native speakers.

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I learned to speak passable Vietnamese in my 2 years in Viet Nam, especially the local dialect. However, when the 2 children of a Vietnamese friend asked me to read to them, they busted out laughing. Part of it was a sad story. I asked Chony why they were laughing. She said, “You speak nice Vietnamese, but you read numbah 10!” It’s all those accent marks I just didn’t get down right.

My tailor and her husband are Vietnamese immigrants (“Richard” was a pilot in the S. Vietnamese Air Force) and they were impressed the first time I spoke to them in Vietnamese.

My dental hygienist was born in Viet Nam (Cholon area of old Saigon), but learned English here. The first time she cleaned my teeth I said, “Cam on nhieu,” she had a look of surprise. She asked me where I learned my Vietnamese. I told her on Phu Quoc Island and at Cat Lo at the mouth of the Mekong River where I worked with contracted Vietnamese.

Besides Viet Nam, I’ve been stationed in 2 other countries (Japan and Sardinia) where I picked up the local language (and dialects) quite easily. I’ve also visited 27 other countries and when I spoke the local language I found I was better accepted than if I hadn’t. The only exception was in France (Toulon, Villefranche, Nice) where my bad French was met with “Je ne comprends pas.” I had to speak Italian in those places. However, my French was understood in Tunisia and Mauritius.

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