Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vietnamese Lessons

Ohhhh, dear.

I tried. I really did. But no matter how right-on I think I am with the pronunciation, I am inarguably wrong, every single time.

You see, in the Vietnamese language, there can be as many as twenty different pronunciations for the same word....yeah. The only distinction between them is the little accent/inflection marks that are placed over, under or slanted sideways. These markers indicate an entirely different word as well as serve as a guiding tool to help you realize when your voice is supposed to rise, fall or stay the same. But the only thing that has stayed the same in these last two Vietnamese lessons has been my pathetic pronunciation skills.

I'm not used to this. I studied and mastered Italian for seven years; Spanish came to me easily during nights out in Salamanca, Spain; I even once had a full-out conversation about the differences of American culture and French culture in Paris. But Vietnamese? Psh. That ain't never happenin'. Tonal languages are on a whole 'notha level, folks.

In class, we are each assigned a young Vietnamese girl who is forced to endure the butchering of her native language for two hours with us. She smiles and nods at me every now and then, trying to be encouraging, but her kindhearted antics don't fool me one bit: I know that the way I prounounced the word 'nguoi' was not any different on my twentieth try as it was during the previous nineteen:

Me: "Nuuooyy?"

Her: "No. Nuuuhhhooyyy"

Me: "Nuuuohooyy?

Her: "No. Nuuuuhhhooyyyy."

Me: "Isn't that what I just said?"

Her: "Almost. Try again..."

This went on for about ten minutes. Christine wasn't having much luck with her partner either. There were points where we both just looked at each other and laughed. What else can we do?

Bud Brown, the man in this blogpost picture, can try to teach you Vietnamese on YouTube. Check him out. He'll take you along while he goes grocery shopping in his car and he'll tell you all about how he hopes to return to 'Nam one day.

For those who attempt to learn, good luck to you all. I hope you fair better than I did!

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