In my opinion, when you plan to visit a country, it’s always a good idea to learn a few words of the local language. Even just the very basics, like « Hello », « Thank You », « Good Bye », and maybe « How Much? », with some numbers, to be able to understand prices and to make yourself understood when you decide to bargain…
In Vietnam, ….
The good thing is you’ll be able to read the words, as the language uses the latin alphabet to spell words, and adds a few accents and symbols to confirm the tone, and the pronunciation. But be careful: being able to recognize letters doesn’t necessary mean being able to read and pronounce words correctly! The different accents that you’ll find on top or under the letters in a word are actually tonal accent, and indicate how you are supposed to pronounce the word. If you take a word with the same letters in the same order, but with a different accent on top or under it, you’ll have different pronunciations, and totally different meaning, so be careful when you speak, you might get misunderstood !
How about me?
…One of the main problem I faced in my journey of learning Vietnamese, is frustration. The frustration of being sure about the spelling of a word and its pronunciation, but seeing in your interlocutor’s eyes that you are absolutely wrong, and that he/she didn’t understand at all what you were trying to say. I feel like using the context of a sentence to try to understand a miss-pronounced word is really automatic, and you might end up believing that people are not making any effort to try and understand you!
The main point, if you want to finally be able to communicate in Vietnamese, is to never give up! The only way to succeed at this is to keep practicing, even if that means you’ll probably be misunderstood for a while at the beginning… Being able to communicate with the locals in their own language is a very deep sign of respect, and it will not only help you understand the language. It will also help you understand the country, its culture, its people, and its overall logic…