If you’re ready to start learning Vietnamese now, go to the first video: Introduction
If you would like to read about how I learned Vietnamese, see below.
I first came to Vietnam in November 2012. I didn’t know any words in Vietnamese. I remember as the plane was landing, a Vietnamese lady sitting next to me tried to teach me how to say “hello” in Vietnamese: Xin Chào. I kept repeating her and she kept frowning and saying that my pronunciation wasn’t exactly right. It was strange. I remember feeling confused because to me, it sounded like I was repeating exactly what she said, but she kept saying it was wrong.
As we touched down at the airport in Hanoi, I decided to give up on learning the language for the time being and focus on finding housing, a job, and all the other necessities. I’d come back to Vietnamese language later on.
Over the course of the next 18 months, I made a few attempts at learning Vietnamese. I wrote lists of words and tried to memorize them. I asked friends and colleagues to help me say a few basic sentences. Pretty soon I was the Vietnamese expert in my circle of friends. I knew how to count and I could say quite a few words that people understood (most of the time). But if the other person responded or asked me a question, I couldn’t understand and the conversation fell apart quickly.
In 2014, I travelled to Europe and I didn’t intend to return to Vietnam. Before I left, I remember saying “Tôi không cần biết tiếng Việt. Tôi không muốn biết tiếng Việt.” (I don’t need to know Vietnamese. I don’t want to know Vietnamese.)
Like most people, I’d made an effort to learn the language and I eventually gave up. I was endlessly frustrated by attempting to say words and having locals just stare at me. Even after living in Vietnam for over a year, I still couldn’t carry on a conversation beyond a few sentences. I looked online for resources, but most of the material was useless. I asked people to teach me, but that hardly ever yielded any results. I wrote down words I saw and translated them, but it didn’t seem like I was getting anywhere. Then I left the country.
In November 2015, I was asked to come back to Hanoi to work as a manager in an English language center. When I accepted the position, I took it upon myself to learn Vietnamese language so I could communicate with the students (if they didn’t speak English), the student’s parents, and the staff at the language center. From that point on, I wasn’t learning because I wanted to; I was learning because I had to. It was my responsibility as a manager.
As I got into self-studying more seriously, my frustration increased. I always had difficulty with pronunciation and no matter how many times I listened to the words or asked a native speaker to explain it to me, it didn’t sink in.
After a year of studying and trying to make sense of it all, things started to click. I figured out the mechanics of the language and started coming up with rules to explain how things worked. Suddenly, when I spoke Vietnamese, everyone could understand everything I was saying and I started to understand what they were saying.
Today, I can talk to people comfortably in all normal situations. If there are new vocabulary words or expressions I don’t understand, I can ask what those words mean and understand the explanations in Vietnamese. If the person I’m speaking with has enough patience, we can discuss any topic.
Being able to speak the language has a huge positive impact on life in Hanoi. There are practical benefits like being able to navigate, negotiate, and ask for help. There are novelties like singing karaoke, chatting with locals on little plastic chairs, and joking with the ladies at the market. There is also a rich cultural understanding tied to the language. If you live in Hanoi, you shouldn’t miss out on all these benefits.
I find it sad that a lot of expats have been in Vietnam for years and still don’t know how to speak Vietnamese. I don’t blame them though. It’s not easy and there’s not a clear explanation of what to do… until now.
If you carefully study the videos in this program and internalize the information, you’ll be well on your way to knowing the language. Pronunciation is the biggest barrier for people who want to learn Vietnamese. This course can be used to overcome that barrier. You won’t be fluent in the language after watching these videos. You’ll just be ready to start working and you’ll have an idea what to do and how to do it.