t is true that with six tones and a plethora of strange vowel sounds that English does not have, pronouncing Vietnamese can be tricky.
But most foreigners in Vietnamese the pronunciation is just about the only difficult thing about Vietnamese.
In fact, every other aspect of the language is quite easy – far easier that what foreigners might expect, especially compared to most European languages.
Following are six reasons why Vietnamese is easy:
Vietnamese is one of the easiest language to learn in the world
1/ Vietnamese has no genders
Vietnamese has no concept of “masculine” or “feminine” words.
You can just learn the word as it is, without any need for extra memorisation.
2/ Vietnamese dispenses with “a” and “the”
If someone who was studying English asked you when to use “a” before a word, and when to use “the”, would you be able to explain?
But is it really that important whether you’re talking about “a” something or “the” something?
It’s usually obvious from the context which one you mean.
Far easier to just do away with them completely, which is what Vietnamese does.
Người can mean both a person or “the person”, and you never need to worry about the distinction.
3/ Vietnamese doesn’t have plurals
In English, when we want to make something plural we usually stick an “s” on the end of it. “Dog” becomes “dogs”, “table” becomes “tables” and “house” becomes “houses”.
However, there are many exceptions.
“Person” becomes “people”, “mouse” becomes “mice”, “man” becomes “men”.
But some words like “sheep” or “fish” don’t change at all.
In Vietnamese, everything is like a sheep.
The word người, as earlier mentioned, can be used for both “people” or “person”.
“Chó” is “dog” or “dogs”.
“Bàn” is “table” or “tables”.
And so on.
If you really need to be specific, just slap an extra word in front of the noun, like một người (one person), những người (some people), or các người (all the people).
4/ Vietnamese has no confusing verb endings
Pity the poor learner of Spanish or French.
In Spanish, even to say something as simple as the word “speak” (hablar), he or she has to learn five or six (depending on dialect) different verb endings for the present tense alone .
I hablo, you hablas, he habla, we hablamos, and the list goes on.
Factor in different tenses and subtleties like the grammatical “mood” (indicative vs subjunctive), and a single Spanish verb has over fifty different forms that learners have to memorize.
The technical term is that Spanish verbs (and nouns, and adjectives) inflect, meaning the same word can take different forms depending on the context.
English isn’t nearly as inflective as Spanish, but we still do it to some extent – for example the word “speak” can inflect to “speaks”, “speaking”, “spoken”, or “spoke”.
Vietnamese is a completely non-inflective language – no word ever changes its form in any context.
Learn the word nói, and you know how to say “speak” in all contexts and tenses for all speakers.
I nói, you nói, he or she nói, we nói, you all nói, and they nói.
5/ Vietnamese tenses can be learned in two minutes
Vietnamese tenses are so easy it’s practically cheating.
Just take the original verb, e.g. “ăn” (to eat), and stick one of the following 5 words in front of it:
Đã = in the past
Mới = in the recent past, more recently than đã
Đang = right now, at this very moment
Sắp = soon, in the near future
Sẽ = in the future
(There are a few others, but with these 5 you’ll be fine in 99% of situations.)
To give you some concrete examples (“tôi” means “I”):
Tôi ăn cơm = I eat rice
Tôi đã ăn cơm = I ate rice
Tôi mới ăn cơm = I just ate rice, I recently ate rice
Tôi đang ăn cơm = I am eating rice (right now)
Tôi sắp ăn cơm = I am going to eat rice, I am about to eat rice
Tôi sẽ ăn cơm = I will eat rice.
Better yet, you can often skip these words entirely if it’s obvious from the context – for example “hôm qua tôi ăn cơm” – “I eat rice yesterday” – is perfectly valid Vietnamese.
6/ You don’t have to learn a new alphabet
Up until about 100 years ago, Vietnamese was written (by the tiny percentage of the population who were literate back then) using a complicated pictoral system called Chữ Nôm that’s similar to today’s Chinese characters.
Today, that’s been 100% superseded by a version of the Latin alphabet i.e. the same alphabet that English uses.
Unlike Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Thai, Cambodian, Korean, Hindi, or dozens of other Asian languages, there’s no need to learn a new alphabet to read Vietnamese .
All you have to do is learn a bunch of accent marks (technically “diacritics”), which are mostly used to denote tone, and you’ll be reading Vietnamese in no time.
By GEORGE MILLO
Source: Fluent in 3 months