Vietnamese for Tone Deaf Americans
December 07, 2014
The best advice we were given before leaving for Vietnam was to look into getting a language teacher. In a lot of Asian countries language teachers are very common for foreigners who are coming to stay in the country for extended business trips. They are usually 1x1 tutors and general guides for navigating the new culture. We asked our hotel if there was anything like that in Hội An. We were paired with Ms. Xinh, an employee of the hotel who works in HR, for one hour language classes in the evenings. Here's what we've learned so far.
No, thank you. Không, cảm ơn.
Given the number of merchants peddling their wares here, we thought this would be a key phrase to learn early on. Không, cảm ơn. They recommended taking a long pause where the comma is to help us clearly say the correct phrase. Here's how you pronounce it. Không is pronounced like a cross between comb without the b and said quickly. Cảm is pronounced like we would say it in American, but the accent means the word goes up. Ơn is pronounced like uhn.
This is definitely what John will say next time two tiny women come up and place fruit on him, then try to sell it to us for more than it would cost in the US.
Don't Touch Me. Đừng sờ.
For some reason while we were learning the letters, we learned the word for touch: sờ, which is pronounced like suh (with the sound going down). Our teacher then taught us how to say don't touch me, 'đừng sờ'. Đừng is pronounced like doong. So you say doong suh to say don't touch me. Conversely, if I would like to be touched I can say 'sờ đi', or touch please. Touch me, please is 'sờ em, đi' where 'em' is a reference to myself (a young woman). John would say 'sờ anh, đi' since he is an older man. Those are the only two pronouns we know so far.
In case you couldn't tell, John loves having his picture taken every 10 seconds. The next phrase we learn will be "stop taking pictures of me."
I love you. Em yêu anh nhiều.
Again, 'anh' refers to John (older man) and 'em' refers to me (younger female). Anh is pronounced like eyne, or eye with an n in the middle. Em is pronounced like we would say it, em. If I tell John I love him, then I would say 'Em yêu anh nhiều'. Yêu means love and is pronounced ew. Nhiều means lots or much and is pronounced like nieu. John would say to me 'Anh yêu em nhiều.'
But really, nothing says I love you more than a giant stuffed bear.