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My next language

My next language

What language is next for Lingo Mama?

So I sat my Chinese HSK 4 exam on Saturday, and I’m officially having a few days break from language study…. before launching into my next challenge!

So what’s my next language challenge?


Why Vietnamese?

Viet Nam and Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt) have such a large place in my heart. I first visited Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) as a 16-year-old in 1997, before spending 1 year there when I was 18. I learnt Vietnamese at the National University for Social Sciences and Humanities and wow it was an eye-opening experience! The classrooms had ramshackle creaky wooden desks and back-breaking chairs, blackboards and no air conditioning. (Gosh I sound so soft!) My classmates were mostly Koreans, with some Japanese students. I don’t remember any other western students at that time. We got drilled on the tones and pronunciation. Vietnamese is a tonal language with 6 tones and the tones are probably the hardest thing about the language to master.

In the early 20th Century, when Vietnam was under French rule, the romanised language system (that is used today) was introduced. Prior to this Vietnamese, was written in a Chinese script. Vietnam was under Chinese rule for many centuries and much of the grammar and structure in Vietnamese is similar to that of Chinese.

Vietnamese is of course widely spoken in Vietnam, but it is also one of the main second languages in many countries worldwide including the USA and Australia. After the Vietnam War, many countries took in the thousands of refugees fleeing Vietnam. Particular areas of the USA, especially Texas, Georgia, Washington and California have high levels of Vietnamese. Australia, France and Germany also have large populations of Vietnamese speakers.

What’s my language learning trip plan?

We are planning a language learning trip to Vietnam for November. I am super excited to be heading back to Vietnam again. We took Lingo Bubba there last year on a quick extended family holiday (she was 9 months old then) but I think travelling with her this time when she is 23 months old will be quite a different challenge!

We will spend time in both Saigon and Hanoi studying Vietnamese. Lingo Dada will also do language classes during this trip! He has some beginner level Vietnamese under his belt and he is really looking forward to improving his language too.

There are some regional differences in accent and vocab between southern and northern Vietnam so that will be another challenge to this trip. But as I’ve only studied southern Vietnamese I will stick with this as much as possible.

Learn more about planning a language learning trip here!

What's my next language challenge?
In Saigon with a Bánh Mì and a Càphê Sữa Đá!

What’s my Vietnamese study focus?

I really enjoy studying a language with a goal in mind – a specific endpoint and tangible marker of improvement. This may be an exam – and ‘achieving’ the next level or it might be something like reading a newspaper article, or watching a favourite tv show without subtitles. Or it could be to know a certain number of words or be able to hold a 2 minute unprompted, unscripted conversation. There are so many goals I could choose from that would work in this situation.

My goal:

I’d like to try and conduct a short interview in Vietnamese on language learning. It only needs to be short (1-2 minutes) with a focus area on second language learning. I will try and interview someone in Vietnam when we are there in November. I’ll post it on Lingo Mama too!

Of course, I have other conversation and travel related goals too. Navigate the city, negotiate taxi fares, order delicious food, buy things for Lingo Bubba when needed and generally interact on a deeper level with the locals we meet.

What's my next language challenge?

Where are we up to in our language trip planning?

So far (as of 20 August) we have nothing confirmed or booked in for this trip! But I have a fair idea of when we will go, what flights we will look at (choosing between Thai Airways, Vietnam Airlines and Singapore Airlines) and the accommodation in the cities we will stay in. We are looking at a serviced apartment for Saigon at this stage – we can get two bedrooms – Lingo Bubba is such a light sleeper, so it is better for us all if she has her own bedroom! The complex has a pool and a playground so that will be great for keeping her entertained.

I’m not sure yet about accommodation in Hanoi, because I’m not as familiar with this city. The last time I visited (I think) was in 1998…! So it is bound to be very different now.  We’d love to do a couple of side trips from both cities too – perhaps to Vung Tau via hydrofoil from Saigon, and perhaps Haiphong and Halong Bay from Hanoi. We will see!

I’ve got a post here on what resources I use for booking our language learning trips that you might find helpful.

What resources will I use to study Vietnamese?

So before we jet off on our next language learning adventure in November, I will be studying and trying to recall the lost Vietnamese I know is deep inside my brain somewhere…!

My go-to resources will be:

  • Our old textbooks initially for some good basic revision
  • Lonely Planet phrasebook for some good food and travel related terms
  • Anki flashcards (I use this for Chinese too)
  • Memrise
  • Clozemaster
  • iTalki – I’ve been having weekly Skype lessons with a Chinese teacher, so I will add regular Vietnamese classes to my program too
  • Lingo Deer (particularly good for beginners)
  • YouTube Vietnamese videos – I’m not sure where to start on this, but this great blog – More Vietnamese has a fantastic list of resources I’ll be consulting.

I’m sure I’ll come across way more resources over the next couple of months too – I’ll update this list as I find more.

Are you learning Vietnamese or have you been to Vietnam?

I’d love to know your thoughts!

Share your top language or travel tips in the comments below!


Until next time,

Lingo Mama


How to Get the most our of your language learning trip
Penelope Wilson

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