Are you considering if you should learn the Vietnamese language? While some people say Vietnamese is hard to learn, some say it is not very challenging to master the language. In this article, we are going to give you some information about the Vietnamese language and tips to help you learn Vietnamese fast.
Don’t be afraid of learning Vietnamese! If you like it, go for it!
Overview Of Vietnamese Language
Vietnamese is the national and official language in Vietnam. It is natively spoken by about 85% of the Vietnamese population and by more than 4 million Vietnamese people who are living permanently in other countries such as the United States, France, China, Japan, and Australia.
The Vietnamese language is called ‘Tiếng Việt’ (aka Tieng Viet) by Vietnamese people. Vietnamese alphabet has 29 characters including 12 vowels and 17 consonants. Vietnamese was historically written using Chinese characters and locally invented characters (Chữ Nôm). The modern Vietnamese language uses Latin (Roman) script and is known as ‘Chữ Quốc Ngữ‘.
Similar to Thai, Cantonese, or Mandarin, Vietnamese is a tonal language. It has 6 tones with 5 tone marks which are important to define the meaning of a word.
Vietnamese vocabulary has been influenced by Chinese, French, and English. There are many Chinese-Vietnamese phrases such as ‘hoa quả’ (fruit), ‘văn học’ (literature) used in daily conversation. French or English words are also used in Vietnamese, especially by young people, such as ‘marketing’ (English), ‘ok’ (English), ‘áp phích’ (affiche – French).
Is It Hard To Learn Vietnamese?
It depends on what your first language is to say if it is difficult to learn Vietnamese. Some people say it is hard but others say it is not very challenging.
As mentioned, Vietnamese has tones, and it is crucial to pronounce the tones correctly, otherwise, people may misunderstand you. If your first language does not have tones, such as English, German or French, it might be tricky to learn Vietnamese pronunciation. The tones, however, are easy to catch up for learners whose first language is also a tonal language like Thai or Cantonese.
Vietnamese grammar is easier to learn compared to many other Western languages. For example, Vietnamese verbs are not reflective when you change the subject or tense. Vietnamese nouns don’t have genders nor plural forms. Therefore, Vietnamese grammar is much simpler than English or German grammar.
The pronouns in the Vietnamese language seem to be hard to learn. If in English, you just use ‘I’ and ‘You’, you will have dozens of Vietnamese pronouns for the two speakers. It depends on the gender, age, and the relationship between you and the other person, to choose correct pronouns.
In terms of Vietnamese writing, it might be easy for many westerners as Vietnamese is written in Roman script. The Vietnamese alphabet is a bit different from the English alphabet but most of the letters are the same. These modern Vietnamese characters might take time for people who are not familiar with the Roman script.
How Long Does It Take To Learn Vietnamese Fluently?
According to Foreign Service Institute (FSI), with their observation of 70 years of experience in teaching languages to U.S diplomats, a native English speaker needs 44 weeks (1,100 class hours) to reach ‘Professional Working Proficiency’ in the Vietnamese language. It means that, if you spend 1 hour every day learning Vietnamese, you can be fluent in 3 years.
The FSI also put Vietnamese in their category 3 ‘Hard languages’. The languages in this type have significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English.
How Do I Start Learning Vietnamese?
Start With Basic Vietnamese Phrases
You can start today by learning some basic Vietnamese phrases and words to help you open a conversation with a native Vietnamese person. For example, how to say hello in Vietnamese, how to say thank you, how to introduce yourself in Vietnamese.
These basic phrases and sentences are not difficult to learn and you can also practice them right away with native speakers. This encourages you to learn more advanced stuff later on.
You can grab a Vietnamese phrasebook or a Vietnamese phrasebook app like Simply Learn to learn by different topics such as greetings, giving directions, and ordering food.
Focus On Vietnamese Pronunciation
As said, Vietnamese tones are very important to define the meaning of a word. The more effort you put into differentiating and pronouncing the tones correctly, the easier people can understand you. It is so frustrating when you try to say something in Vietnamese but local people can’t understand you at all.
Mastering the six tones in Vietnamese will help you a lot in speaking the language. You can start mimicking what is said and check your pronunciation score in the Ling App. The audio is recorded by native Vietnamese speakers, so it is very helpful for you to get used to their pronunciation.
Practice With Native Speakers As Much As You Can
It happens many times that what you learn at school is too academic and different from what is actually used in daily conversation. That is why practicing with native speakers is necessary to help you improve your language skills. Native speakers can help you broaden your vocabulary, slang, and idioms. They can also correct your pronunciation and give you more insights into the culture.
You can join a language exchange group where Vietnamese native speakers also participate such as Bla Bla Language Exchange group or Learn Vietnamese Facebook group. Enrolling in a Vietnamese language school or hiring a Vietnamese tutor is also a great idea. In addition, you can make friends with Vietnamese people either online or offline to learn more about Vietnamese culture and the Vietnamese language.
Increase Your Vietnamese Vocabulary
Because Vietnamese grammar is quite simple, you should focus more on learning vocabulary to be able to communicate with local people. Even when you don’t use correct grammar, people can still understand you if you give them enough important words.
A traditional English – Vietnamese dictionary can be a common choice but it might be less interesting to learn vocabulary. Instead, you can be playing word games in the Vocly app to learn Vietnamese words. The app also lets you hear the pronunciation and spelling of the words, which is brilliant to help you memorize vocabulary.
You can also listen to some youtube videos in Vietnamese or read Vietnamese online magazines to learn more advanced phrases.
Consistency Is The Key For Language Learning
Consistency is the key for learning any language, especially for learning Vietnamese as it is considered ‘hard to learn’ by the FSI. When you learn a language day by day, you can remember what you have learned better. They say when you see a word 30 times, more likely you can remember it.
You can start with 30 minutes of learning Vietnamese everyday. When you get used to it, increase the learning time to 1 hour or more. The daily reminder in the Ling app, for example, can be helpful to remind you that it’s time to learn Vietnamese.
Another way to motivate you in learning Vietnamese is to reward yourself if you reach a certain level of Vietnamese or if you finish a number of lessons. For example, if you finish the first ten Vietnamese lessons in the Ling app, you will have Vietnamese food as an award.
When you learn more about a language, you will find it interesting and beautiful. It will be even better when you can talk to native speakers and learn about their culture and their perspective. For example, when you can speak Vietnamese with Vietnamese people, you will know why Vietnamese people ask how old you are and will not feel offended. So, start from today and hopefully, you will be fluent in Vietnamese after 3 years or even shorter.