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Why don't Vietnamese understand Vietnamese spoken by a foreigner?

Ciambella :

Yes, Colin, it's Western-style street talk, directly translated from English while removing the required personal pronouns.  It's fine (even considered hip) between close friends and among a younger crowd, but it's too brusque to be used with strangers or one's parents (especially parents-in-law, for the Westerners who married into Vietnamese families.)

Edit to add: 

Since Vietnamese language emphasizes respect, skipping the needed "I" and "you" is to remove the core of the language.  Instead of "mai gặp lại" (see [presumably you] tomorrow) a better and correct way would have been "gặp lại anh/em ngày mai" (see you again tomorrow) or "mai mình [sẽ] gặp lại" (we'll see [each other] again tomorrow.) 

The removing or adding of one word makes a lot of difference to a sentence.

It's mostly used by teens and 20somethings. I doubt an older local would use that language.

colinoscapee :

It's mostly used by teens and 20somethings. I doubt an older local would use that language.

Precisely.

And that's one problem (of many) in learning a new language.  We copy the locals because we think that's the way we should speak, while unbeknown to us, the way some locals speak is something we should never immitate if we want to receive welcome and respect.

It's a bit like when locals watch English language movies, hear things and think,that's cool. Last week at my tạp hóa, a friend of the shop owner gave me a "fu#k you."I then preceded to tell her that it's not a good thing to say, but she thought it was and nearly fell off her chair laughing.

Ciambella :

Yes, Colin, it's Western-style street talk, directly translated from English while removing the required personal pronouns.  It's fine (even considered hip) between close friends and among a younger crowd, but it's too brusque to be used with strangers or one's parents (especially parents-in-law, for the Westerners who married into Vietnamese families.)

Edit to add: 

Since Vietnamese language emphasizes respect, skipping the needed "I" and "you" is to remove the core of the language.  Instead of "mai gặp lại" (see [presumably you] tomorrow) a better and correct way would have been "gặp lại anh/em ngày mai" (see you again tomorrow) or "mai mình [sẽ] gặp lại" (we'll see [each other] again tomorrow.) 

The removing or adding of one word makes a lot of difference to a sentence.

In Hong Gnu a couple of years ago, my Long Haired Dictionary used to tell me: "Nge Mai Gap Lai"(phonetic spelling) when she used to disappear after work. Her English was generally, mmmmmm only just adequate - but not as bad as a previous interpreter I had, Tony, who once described a 500lb bomb crater in a rice field as a "place for fix racing" - He meant a hole dug for the breeding of fish, which was utter ballcocks.

Were there fish in the crater?

Ciambella :

Were there fish in the crater?

The crater was in the middle of a rice field of about a kilometre and a half long. Actually there were three craters in a line, two craters were a hundred metres apart, the third crater was about 300 metres from the first crater. All the craters were in a straight line. The locations of the craters  were broadly in line with the US bombing data record of that area.

I deduced a number of things from the location of the craters:
a. It was likely that the craters were the result of a single pass and delivery by an aircraft carrying 4 bombs.
b. It seemed  as if the pilot of the aircraft that delivered the bombs, had dropped them in the rice field rather than on the villages located on slightly higher ground, on either side of the rice field.
c. Again, from the US bombing data record, I found that the bombing took place late in the Vietnam / American war. You can draw your own conclusions from this fact and my opinion at b. above.
d. The fact that the craters were actually bomb craters was confirmed by fragments of bomb case recovered from the crater walls, following a magnetometer search, which were consistent with Mk82 US 500 pound bombs.
e. The fact that the first two craters were roughly 100 metres apart and the third crater was 300 metres distant from the first crater indicates that there was probably a bomb between the second and third crater, which was either:
  * Unexploded, or,
  * Which had exploded deeper underground and had formed a camoflet (cavity), without breaking the      surface and forming a crater.

At the time of my visit the rainy season was just about ended and the rice fields were draining. There was about 20 Cm or less of water in the rice fields and, due to the rainy season, the craters were water filled. People were still fishing - and catching fish - in the rice fields so it is reasonable to assume that there would be fish in the craters too although I didn't see any (but wasn't looking for fish anyway).

I have heard of people using bomb craters in this way but this is the first such account that I would consider authoritative.  Matt, have you ever considered writing a book about your EOD experiences?

I'm in the middle of writing it now. Its a long process but heres a taster which I published on the Oilpro website a couple of weeks ago: http://oilpro.com/post/31283/thought-d-heard-all

Thank you for mentioning b and c, Matt.

>> 3 men with trollies full of golf bats  <<

Ha.  Even I, an old duck who can't tell the difference between a putter and a brolly stick, know straight away that one would never find a Louisville Slugger on a golf course.

Ciambella :

>> 3 men with trollies full of golf bats  <<

Ha.  Even I, an old duck who can't tell the difference between a putter and a brolly stick, know straight away that one would never find a Louisville Slugger on a golf course.

Please either send us the decryption keys or post again in English!

Actually I do know that golf ball striking tools are clubs and not bats, but as an author, I am allowed a little license  ;)

Ciambella :

Thank you for mentioning b and c, Matt.

When I write stuff I try to be as factual as possible and I saw more than a couple of circumstances which led me to similar conclusions about the war here.

Anyway, we have drifted well off subject here so, back to why don't they, etc....

A couple of weeks ago I said chào buổi sáng to a man walking round our estate. I hadn't seen him before and, as I was on my normal morning exercise walk within our compound and because we all greet each other at that time of day, I wished him a good morning.

His response to my greeting was: "Jaa, mup wah"  :lol:

Ignorant git!

My vocab is eclectic, I know.  It's a result of learning English at a tender age from a French speaker.  Plus 20+ years living with an Irish-English who lives and speaks bodysurfing and American sports, especially baseball.  Plus months and months couch surfing (before couch surfing caught on as a modern day cheap lodging) from Manchester to Cornwall.  Plus almost a decade being corrected by all sorts of Europeans who insisted that they spoke the true everyday English.  Plus half a dozen years breathing in the regional dialects of American Southern states.   

My accents are even more confusing.

Maybe I just stick to Vietnamese, which brings the question:  Why would you say chào buổi sáng to a Vietnamese?  There is formal, and there is FORMAL.  Yours is the latter.

I would have said back to him, Thank you bác.  Kill them with kindness and throw them off at the same time.  Vietnamese are not known for their tact (not saying I agree with him on your physique!  :gloria )

Ciambella :

My vocab is eclectic, I know.  It's a result of learning English at a tender age from a French speaker.  Plus 20+ years living with an Irish-English who lives and speaks bodysurfing and American sports, especially baseball.  Plus months and months couch surfing (before couch surfing caught on as a modern day cheap lodging) from Manchester to Cornwall.  Plus almost a decade being corrected by all sorts of Europeans who insisted that they spoke the true everyday English.  Plus half a dozen years breathing in the regional dialects from American Southern states.   

My accents are even more confusing.

Maybe I just stick to Vietnamese: Who would say chao buoi sang to a Vietnamese?

Are you saying Chao buoy etc is wrong?

Interestingly, I used to speak German (Hoch Deutsch) with an accent that, on the telephone, led many Germans to suppose that they were taking to a  fellow German - That is until my vocab ran out. But thats because the military German language school I attended was superb and, I had 7 or so German staff working for me at the time.

Here in Vietnam I am teaching my wifes nephew to speak English in the school holidays - from his own school lesson books (I want to kill and eat Champa the bloody sun bear!). He has picked up on my slight Yorkshire accent and pronounces "done" as dun - and has a similar Yorkshire inflection with a few other words now. Which is going to blow his school English teachers mind (I'm convinced she can't speak English at all).

I would love to teach him the Yorkshire dialect "ee, bah 'eck, nahthen, sithee".

No, it's not wrong, but it's very, very, very formal.  I don't know anyone who has ever said it, except foreigners.  (I edited my last post to include some explanation, at the same time you posted your comment).

A simple "Chào ông" is polite enough, and if he mentions your physique again, use the sentences everyone talked about a couple of days ago, "Cảm ơn ông nhiều lắm. Gặp lại ông ngày mai."  Just for the heck of it.

I bet he'll never be rude to you again.

Ciambella :

No, it's not wrong, but it's very, very, very formal.  I don't know anyone who has ever said it, except foreigners.  (I edited my last post to include some explanation, at the same time you posted your comment).

A simple "Chào ông" is polite enough, and if he mentions your physique again, use the sentences everyone talked about a couple of days ago, "Cảm ơn ông nhiều lắm. Gặp lại ông ngày mai."  Just for the heck of it.

I bet he'll never be rude to you again.

What I said to him in return was actually a good deal worse. But not for quoting on here  :o

BTW, this is for anyone out there who already speaks some Vietnamese and wants to show that you do know the language and not just repeating a few sentences by rote:

Adding "nhé" at the end of your sentence (not all of them) is a good way to bring a smile onto the listener's face.  It's a word that cannot be translated, nor does it have an equivalence in any language.  Its function is to put a very slight emphasis to the verb/statement you use in the sentence, almost (but not quite) similar to the way Americans add "OK?", French speakers add "n'est-ce pas?", and Italians add "sì?" to the end of a sentence.

For example:

"Gặp lại em ngày mai" is "I'll see you again tomorrow", but "Gặp lại em ngày mai nhé" is "I'm looking forward to see you again tomorrow", or "Does it suit you that we'll see each other again tomorrow?"  All of those sentiments can be replaced with a simple "nhé".  And the best thing is, you will not sound desperate when saying "nhé" the way you would sound when you add the other sentiments to your request.

If the listener is not your SO but your mother-in-law, for instance, then "nhé" would show the sincerity in your wish to see her again.  She would be happy hearing that.

Note:  Please do not imitate this pronunciation for the word "nhé".   https://www.howtopronounce.com/vietnamese/nh%C3%A9/

It's not correct.  I'll find my own recording from Forvo and post a link later.

Yes my wife does it in English too, as in "Lets go shopping, nhe?"

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