Vietnam has a very active economy – they are major exporters of agricultural goods. There are 59 million Vietnamese language speakers in the world – although there are 83 million people in Vietnam. It’s a very cosmopolitan country, with a diverse mix of ethnicities, many of whom speak other languages.
In addition, most Vietnamese people speak French as a second language – a relic of French colonial days.
There are several strong communities speakers around the world, in countries including:
With such a large community and the opportunity for international trade, it makes sense to learn Vietnamese!
Thanks to the influence of the French, the Vietnamese use the latin alphabet (with a few additions) for their texts. This makes it one of the easier written Asian languages for westerners to learn.
While the written form is comparatively easy, the same cannot be said for the oral language. It’s a very tonal tongue, and westerners must train their ears before they can detect the subtle nuances.
As English speakers, we use voice tone to convey mood and emotion. In Vietnam, voice tone is also a part of the language, and using the wrong tone can completely change the meaning of your utterance.
The key to mastering tones is to listen to lots of native speakers and learn to differentiate between similar sounding words. Next, you should practice reproducing those tones, preferably with the help of a native speaker. This is a key step and will go a long way towards ensuring people understand you.
In addition to tones, there are many vowel sounds – many more than we use in English. Again, the key is to practice listening and speaking. Some students say that listening to Vietnamese music and singing along can help – although I wouldn’t recommend this to an absolute beginner.
Learning the Vietnamese language is easy if you take it one step at a time. Don’t be overwhelmed or attempt to achieve too much at first – it does take time, but it’s worth it!