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

in my opinion, u should ask " Bạn Khỏe Không?" instead of " Em khỏe không?".This is more polite and some Vietnamese people they do not have " an open mind" and think quite serious so if you say that in Vietnamese, they think like you are flirting them.

Ai Ho :

in my opinion, u should ask " Bạn Khỏe Không?" instead of " Em khỏe không?".This is more polite and some Vietnamese people they do not have " an open mind" and think quite serious so if you say that in Vietnamese, they think like you are flirting them.

Ai Ho Em khỏe không?

I do believe :
Ai Ho :

in my opinion, u should ask " Bạn Khỏe Không?" instead of " Em khỏe không?".This is more polite and some Vietnamese people they do not have " an open mind" and think quite serious so if you say that in Vietnamese, they think like you are flirting them.

Ai Ho Em khỏe không?

Hahaha, today I was going to reply her but I was so busy teaching, just finished 3 classes... So exhausted.
Don't worry, not many Vietnamese people think like that. My friends ask me like that, I only asked: why you need to know if I am strong or not? Do you want to fight with me :D? Hehe

Em khỏe, còn anh khỏe không? Rất vui khi được gặp anh. You are so funny, which school are u teaching now? ur students will love the crazy teacher like u. Wish to be ur student :))))))))

Ai Ho :

Em khỏe, còn anh khỏe không? Rất vui khi được gặp anh. You are so funny, which school are u teaching now? ur students will love the crazy teacher like u. Wish to be ur student :))))))))

I was teaching part time 6 days a week at my home until this month. I suddenly realized the demand and my attempt to fill it had me trapped into a routine that had ceased to be fun. I'm supposed to be retired. So now I volunteer growing vegetables to benefit the poor. Maybe I'll start teaching again in the new year.

If one looks at the messages from Ngattt and Ai Ho, what is a foreigner to do? What is right what is wrong? I have been told that only foreigners say, "Khỏe không?" Contradictory speech suggestions from native Vietnamese speakers  are legion and confusing to say the least.

Just kindly smile at them, that's it!!!! haha. why we dont organize a meeting day? that would be fun. Share our culture together, maybe.......

I do believe :

If one looks at the messages from Ngattt and Ai Ho, what is a foreigner to do? What is right what is wrong? I have been told that only foreigners say, "Khỏe không?" Contradictory speech suggestions from native Vietnamese speakers  are legion and confusing to say the least.

Its normal that Vietnamese don't always ask "Em khỏe không?" or "Khỏe không" everyday like "How are you" in English. And you also can use "Dạo này thế nào?" = "How is it going?".
But you can say "em khỏe không" to everyone, don't worry, no need to confuse, even some girls think you flirt them, its ok then. You are men, flirting women is normal, hahaha.

However, this is the first time I read something like Ai Ho said. Maybe she is still very young, so think everything is quite different to me. I never think like that. I like to be a men's friend than a girlfriend :D. Because I want to have many friends, not only one!

BTW, I have to teach just some days/a week; and I like staying in office to make lectures (I have to teach new subjects every semester, so can't stop making lectures). But this semester, I have to teach on weekends, so I have to go to my university everyday :D, its make me tired because don't have any day to relax. But it's my choice, so its ok. I still young, I can work hard now to have money when I get older :D.

ngattt :
I do believe :

If one looks at the messages from Ngattt and Ai Ho, what is a foreigner to do? What is right what is wrong? I have been told that only foreigners say, "Khỏe không?" Contradictory speech suggestions from native Vietnamese speakers  are legion and confusing to say the least.

Its normal that Vietnamese don't always ask "Em khỏe không?" or "Khỏe không" everyday like "How are you" in English. And you also can use "Dạo này thế nào?" = "How is it going?".
But you can say "em khỏe không" to everyone, don't worry, no need to confuse, even some girls think you flirt them, its ok then. You are men, flirting women is normal, hahaha.

However, this is the first time I read something like Ai Ho said. Maybe she is still very young, so think everything is quite different to me. I never think like that. I like to be a men's friend than a girlfriend :D. Because I want to have many friends, not only one!

BTW, I have to teach just some days/a week; and I like staying in office to make lectures (I have to teach new subjects every semester, so can't stop making lectures). But this semester, I have to teach on weekends, so I have to go to my university everyday :D, its make me tired because don't have any day to relax. But it's my choice, so its ok. I still young, I can work hard now to have money when I get older :D.

Marry a rich old Expat, and you won't have to work at all, and in a few years you'll have all his money when he snuffs it. ;)                      :offtopic:

Bad news for you Ngattt, soon you will be looking back and saying what happened to all the years? Stop and take time to smell the roses. Make time to live life rather than riding an express train to the end of the line.

Ai Ho :

Just kindly smile at them, that's it!!!! haha. why we dont organize a meeting day? that would be fun. Share our culture together, maybe.......

I replied to you on a private message. You should also know that there are expat meetings every month.

@Blue: tell me where I can find a guy like that hehe?

I do believe :

Bad news for you Ngattt, soon you will be looking back and saying what happened to all the years? Stop and take time to smell the roses. Make time to live life rather than riding an express train to the end of the line.

If I don't work hard  I will have lots of time to think about some stupid things. Hehe.
When I was very young, I worked so hard and my colleagues said, it was lucky because I still had someone to get married at the age I was planning (26 -  27 years  old in Vietnamese way). Because I work almost the time, only sleep about 4 hours a day. And I work because I had responsibility with my customers, because of my passion, not because of money (I worked for government University always, the salary is low). Sometimes I think it is my destiny so I never worry so much hehe.
Btw, back to the topic, I am teaching Vietnamese for foreigners just because I like to do it, so even I have to teach in Sunday, and Monday morning at 7am, I still go to D1 every Sunday evening for that. My life is always very hard, I got used to it long time ago haha.

The more I deal with this topic the more convoluted the solution to the problem seems to be. There have been some great suggestions on the oddity of Vietnamese unable to understand Foreigner Vietnamese and it appears it will always be so. As my Vietnamese slowly slowly improves, I am having more success communicating. I phoned my sister in Canada last week and she asked my why I was talking that way. I asked her what she meant and she said I was talking about everything in the present tense. She also noticed I didn't use the words, "come" and "go" correctly. This means that as my English deteriorates I am having more luck conversing in Vietnam.

I have been digging into this topic for a couple of months now and am speaking as a foreigner who used to speak "intelligible" Vietnamese thirty years ago. Time has dimmed most of my memories of those times, but recent visits back to Saigon are rekindling some words, as I walk down the street for instance and see a shop with Hot toc on the sign I go "aha a barber shop" and so on. I am also using Google translate a lot and that helps but (and this is in my opinion only) it seems to me the Southern Vietnamese which used to be spoken has become closer to the Hanoi dialect and has become more formal.

Forgive my spelling and lack of diacriticals but I used to get by with a simple cam on or cam on Nhu lam but now it seems I should be saying cảm ơn rất nhiều instead, and if that is the case my old fluency may end up being more of a hindrance than a help.

I would love to hear comments on this if possible.

Cảm ơn rất nhiều is not necessary at all. It means - thanks a lot. If you say "cảm ơn" (thanks) leaving a distinct but short space between the two words - everybody will understand. Here in Saigon they seem to use the ngã tone in place of the hỏi tone. In Hanoi they use both. I use neither. So - I have found that if I stress the "cảm" and follow up with the "ơn" I never have a misunderstanding. I also find the ơn needs to be pronounced as "un."  Google is a big help sometimes and at other times makes no sense at all. Note: all of you who disagree with me, you are wrong.

HI I Do - my point was more towards the disapperance of "com on nhu lam" in place of "Cảm ơn rất nhiề".

What has happened there? - is it because the spoken language has become more formal or because different dialects are in use these days or because....??

"Cảm ơn nhìu lắm" ==> young people here in the the South use this sentence often.

Some words in Vietnamese will be different when some young people use, so maybe you can't understand when you read/hear. For example: yêu = iu = love, hiểu = hỉu = understand...

So don't worry so much if you can't understand when some people speak Vietnamese. Even I can't understand sometimes :D.

Hi Ngattt - thanks for the response - I suspect that I am relying too much on Google translate and am glad to know I am not that outdated :/

ngattt :

yêu = iu = love, hiểu = hỉu

This is what happen when they attempt to pronounce the words with a cute duck face. Try it you'll see.

Also, "Dạo này thế nào" direct translation would be "how is it recently"
"Dạo này tôi bận" would be "Recently I'm busy"
"Dạo này tôi ăn kiêng" would be "Recently I'm on a diet"

Also 2, the current vietnamese writing system is a direct transcription of the pronunciation. What it write there is how you suppose to pronounce it.
e.g: 'ban' would be b-a-n, 'nguyen' would be ng-uye-n.
The 'ng' is something between 'n' and 'g'. That's why we wrote it as nguyen. If it were to be pronounced as win, we'd have written it as 'guyn'.
Funny thing, 'guyn' is exactly how you'd spell out 'win' with vietnamese spelling system.

All comments in this topic are so funny.
Vietnamese speak English by Vietnamese accent. Sometime I really don't know how can my friends understand whatever I said. They are so smart.
I'm new member, nice to know you all.
Good luck.

What happened to hELLnoi? he appears to have deleted all his posts?

Today I went to a hospital on Phan Xich Long to get my teeth checked by an English speaking dentist. Turns out her English consists of, "Hello, how are you?" No problem, I can use my basic Vietnamese. I said in Vietnamese,  "Răng có đau với lạnh." (Teeth have pain with cold.)  Her response was she didn't understand so she called over her two assistants and they also didn't understand. Then I smiled broadly and tapped my teeth at the same time saying, "rang, rang, RANG!" (teeth....." They still didn't understand until another patient said, "rang." I swear to God I was saying it the only way it could be said. Somehow we finished the examination and on the way out I asked the dentist how to get to the first floor, she replied in Vietnamese she didn't understand. The cleaning lady nearby understood and directed me to the stairwell.

You ought to try prefacing with a "Xin cha`o" next time.

hajnam123 :

You ought to try prefacing with a "Xin cha`o" next time.

Vietnamese typically do not use the word 'xin chao'. I don't know why but I have witnessed every single non-Vietnamese person would say this whenever they encounter a local Vietnamese person. To me it sounds silly and borderline FOB to say it since the proper way of saying hello is to address that person's gender or status such as, 'chao co', 'chao chu', 'chao em' etc...Having said that, my Vietnamese friends and I don't start our conversation with the 'hello or xin chao'. We typically go straight into the discussion of whatever we want to discuss on that given day like 'where's my money? or where are we going to 'nhau' tonight?

PhucDatBiet :
hajnam123 :

You ought to try prefacing with a "Xin cha`o" next time.

Vietnamese typically do not use the word 'xin chao'. I don't know why but I have witnessed every single non-Vietnamese person would say this whenever they encountered a local Vietnamese person. To me it sounds silly and borderline FOB to say it since the proper way of saying hello is to address that person's gender or status such as, 'chao co', 'chao chu', 'chao em' etc...Having said that, my Vietnamese friends and I don't start our conversation with the 'hello or xin chao'. We typically go straight into the discussion of whatever we want to discuss on that given day like 'where's my money? or where are we going to 'nhau' tonight?

hajnam123 :

You ought to try prefacing with a "Xin cha`o" next time.

You have got to be joking. I prefaced with the Vietnamese version of the Iliad.

I do believe :

What happened to hELLnoi? he appears to have deleted all his posts?
I said in Vietnamese,  "Răng có đau với lạnh." (Teeth have pain with cold.)

I understand why she didn't understand you. When you have problems with teeth, you should say "răng bị đau và buốt". You should always use "bị" when you are suffering from something:
- headache: tôi bị đau đầu OR Đầu [của] tôi bị đau,
- stomachache: tôi bị đau dạ dày OR Dạ dày của tôi bị đau
- toothache: tôi bị đau răng OR Răng của tôi bị đau.

If you feel they are cold, you should say "buốt" = "lạnh" (lạnh buốt = very very cold). "Buốt" always use with teeth, or bone, it means the pain is very deeply.

.

I have contributed sporadically to this forum, and I have generally taken the position that Vietnamese have trouble understanding foreigners because of the difficulty foreigners have getting the pronunciation right, with a slight nod to the fact that many Vietnamese are initially surprised and don't know how to react.

I've changed my mind.

Last week I had the (highly unusual for me) experience of speaking Vietnamese on the telephone.

The woman on the other end had absolutely no problem understanding anything that I said.

Of course, she couldn't see that I was a European. I think that made the difference.

I still often have trouble with Vietnamese understanding my Vietnamese and me understanding Vietnamese's Vietnamese. I continue to learn and practice Vietnamese but am learning at a disabled snail's pace. One of the off putting things I occasionally come across is Viet Kieu verbally assaulting me for my lousy Vietnamese. When someone speaks very bad English I never tell them their English is bad; I just try and understand them. I have decided that people who criticize my Vietnamese are socially ignorant and it is one of the ways to evaluate a personality. Most Vietnamese who have trouble understanding me, apologize and tell me it's not clear. That's fair comment but to tell me straight out that my Vietnamese is bad in barely understandable English is not acceptable. On another note I find, as I learn more Vietnamese that my Vietnamese is pretty bad.

Unfortunately, this is a common problem, it may not be that your Vietnamese is bad, it is often that they are not expecting you to speak in their language and hence when you start off the sentence in Vietnamese with what you want they are not listening for Vietnamese they are trying to use their limited English vocabulary, concentrating and translating your first words into English. I find it is often easier to start off with some pleasantries in Vietnamese to get them tuned in to the fact you are speaking Vietnamese then move on to the subject at hand. I’ve been here for over 15 years and believe me, I definitely still have the same problem you are experiencing, plus you are probably learning “correct” Vietnamese not the shorten version they are so used to hearing.  Don’t give up, persevere you’ll get there.  ;)

I'm Vietnamese and working with many foreign coworkers at school. Sometimes they asks me in Vietnamese and I'm trying to understand not because they have bad pronunciation but at the quick moment i dont know which one (English maybe) when they repeat it, i can understand easily.

Finally someone who has the problem as me, and the same ??????????? in my head.  Sometimes I think as much as the locals like to learn English  (  which I must say is for lateral thinkers )  Most of them are robotic and only text book English speakers, they do not want us to learn their language fully, anyway it is so difficult to translate my thoughts exactly as I would like to,  Sarcasm, humor, jokes, etc, etc is not in their vocabulary, or am I meeting the wrong people ?  Who are the right one anyway ?

Still wondering............................... hd375c

I can speak basic Vietnamese and they understand me fine. sometimes they don't though which is fine and nothing to worry about. keep trying...and practice your pronunciation with a teacher 1 on 1. also you need to ask appropriate simple questions relevant to the situation. try and speak a little each day and don't be discouraged.

there are also many aspects that you need to learn that will help you improve overall...

1. writing and correct grammar
2. listening and comprehension (hard !)
3. speaking and pronunciation
4. spoken language vs text book
5. vocabulary

try and improve slowly in each area and don't give up :)

if you ask them in Vietnamese to speak again (nói lại) or speak slowly for you (nói chậm cho tôi)  they will realise you are a beginner and are happy to help and speak simply for you.

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