THE VIETNAMESE LANGUAGE
Wrongly, people consider it not easy because of the tones. But also because of the accent differences between the Hanoi, Hue and Ho Chi Minh Ville dialects.
In the world
With more than 85 million speakers in the world, it is the 16th most spoken in the world. If it not obvious at first glance, we can find it in some parts of the world.
Thus, no less than 1.5 million people speak it in the USA. Also, it is the main Asian language in France, probably due to the strong link between these two countries with ex Indochine. Not to mention then we can also find it in Canada for America. Then, Cambodia, Laos, Russia, China and Australia for Asia. And in some countries of North Europe.
MAKE IT EASY
An easy overall
Do you know that there are no variable words, no gender, no articles, no tenses and a simple grammar? Thus, anyone greatly appreciates this ease, which more than compensates for the tone of the words.
Therefore, to mark a tense, you only need to add a word before the verb. Thus, we use đang for the present, đã for the past and sẽ for the future.
An easy script
Such unique, considering all Asia, the Vietnamese writing system is the only one that uses the Latin script. For sure, this is one of the easiest ways to learn it.
However, Alexandre de Rhodes, a French missionary in the 17th century made it with 29 letters and 12 vowels. The latter then romanised this dialect, previously written with modified Chinese signs from the 2nd century. There were two main reasons for this. First, to allow people to easily access it. Second, to respond to the political will of the time to distance itself with China and its culture. In fact, while on stay in Rome in 1651, he built a famous trilingual dictionary in Vietnamese, Portuguese and Latin. Finally, this work marked the mutation of the writing script from Chinese to Latin. It is then quite easy to read Vietnamese.
Although Chinese has strongly influenced Vietnamese, the French colonial period has left many traces in the lexicon. There are many words from food, housing and mechanics. Also, word order is strictly the same than French or Italian: Subject, Verb, Object.
SOME OTHER ASPECTS
Here is the nightmare of students. Like Chinese, Vietnamese is a tonal language, 6 tones in the North and 5 in the South, which rhythmically mark syllables.
Vietnamese is also a monosyllabic language. Indeed, a large part of the vocabulary is made up of one syllable words. While others are composed of two syllables, words having more are very rare. As a result, most of the lexicon consists of two simple words to put together. For instance:
- Bàn (to take by the hand) + ủi (to iron) = iron
- Bàn (grasping) + chải (brush) = toothbrush
- Cây (stick) + kéo (cut) = scissors
- Cây (stick) + bút (write) = pen
- Máy (machine) + giặt (wash) = washing machine
It is essential to master personal pronouns as I and You do not exist. This is because the Vietnamese are a very family oriented society and consider each other as one family. Then, pronouns mark a hierarchy according to man, woman, but also age. Indeed, respect for elders and ancestors is the basis of life. This is why, there, people often ask for your age in order to use the right personal pronoun.
Here are the main ones: Ông (sir), Bà (madam), Bác (uncle), Cô (aunt), Anh (elder brother), Chị (elder sister), and Em (younger sister or brother).
Vietnamese is a vowel rich language with 11 simple vowels and a variety of diphthongs and even triphthongs. The link between pronunciation and writing is not easy. Indeed, a same letter can be two different monophthongs, or both a monophthong and a diphthong. But also, different letters can represent the same monophthong.