Friday, October 12, 2012

How to Speak Like an American Vietnamese (Viet Kieu)

So you want to learn the Vietnamese language, but all of the language centers only teach the northern dialect of the language which when a foreigner speaks it, everyone looks at with shock and awe. The southern dialect, specifically Saigon, is the most respected despite the Hanoian accent being the official sound of Vietnam, due to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) being the center of Vietnamese culture and innovation. But you want to know what is the most coveted accent? It is the accent of the overseas (usually American) Vietnamese. This is an accent of broken Vietnamese due to the Viet Kieu's loss of original language as a result of being force-fed English by American culture. Even Vietnamese Americans recently born are not formally taught the language as their parents have an indefinite need to study and practice English itself. This makes English the official language of most affluent Vietnamese households, especially those who came over as refugees in the 70's and 80's. The need for the elders and the kids to assimilate into American culture for fear of being ridiculed as un-American was so great that the youth lost the ability to speak the language past grade school.

When I stepped foot onto Vietnamese soil, I literally remembered just a handful of words despite being fluent in Vietnamese when I was under 12 years old. I attempted to recapture the language with Pimsleur and Rosetta but found them useless for attaining real knowledge in conversational Vietnamese. Those two programs focus on travel-speak, which is not a necessity as one may assume because most Vietnamese in the tourist business already understand travel-speak in the English language, so all you need to know is English to get your needs across when it comes to traveling. The trick is learning the right Vietnamese words and phrases in order to interact with locals.

When I came to Vietnam I immediately realized that the 10-15 words that I remembered from my youth was not enough to cut it here. I then created a spreadsheet with a list of Vietnamese words, a sentence for each word, pronunciation guide, translation into the common English phrase, and a literal translation into English. In one month I assembled a spreadsheet containing 170 core vocabulary words, with nearly 600 total words when combined with the supplemental words in the example sentences. As I used these sentences to interact with locals, I automatically learned knew words every single day. At the end of the month I had acquired a vocabulary of 1200 Vietnamese words, which I figured was a good enough number to hold a conversation with almost any fluent speaker.

Below is a link to the spreadsheet that helped me learn the language. Please keep in mind that much of it are ways to talk to girls as that was the priority when I first got here and also keep in mind that the pronunciation is like that of an 8-10 year old. But here's the kicker. Girls actually love it and think it's cute. So take it from me. The Viet Kieu dialect is extremely powerful. And with great power comes great responsibility so bear that in mind as well.

Vietnamese Cheatsheet Spreadsheet

No comments:

Post a Comment