Writing in a foreign language… Actually there are different kinds of writing.

write When you think about writing in a foreign language, what springs to mind? Writing essays for class? Writing a short text about a trip you went on or a fun evening you had with friends?

Those are great topics for practising your Vietnamese but to write about them, you usually have to sit down with the sole aim of writing. You have to be focused, think carefully about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. So sometimes you never even get started.

Of course writing texts like that can be extremely beneficial, however these ‘essays’ are not the only forms of writing.

Do you ever send SMS messages to your friends in Vietnamese? Or chat with them on facebook? Or message back and forth with a potential language partner on iTalki*?

All of these are also writing practice, even if you don’t think of them as practice… It’s just chatting to your friends, right?


Chatting is writing practice. Yay!

Common types of writing

Bearing this in mind, it’s probably much easier than you first thought to get regular practice writing in a foreign language.

Here’s a taste of the different kinds of writing there are.


  • Writing opinion essays
  • Making an enquiry (eg. to a language school)
  • Sending work emails
  • Writing reports


  • Writing a diary or telling a story about a trip or film you’ve seen
  • Writing an email to an exchange partner or chatting with them on Facebook/Skype
  • Replying to comments on Lang-8
  • Writing blog articles or how-to’s

Very informal

  • Replying to an email from a close friend
  • Writing a status update on facebook
  • Commenting on a friend’s facebook status
  • Sending a SMS to a friend

Chances are, even if you think you don’t like writing in a foreign language, you actually do one or more of these on a regular basis.

Develop your skills

Each different style of writing requires a different tone, level of formality and often different vocabulary.

No matter what language you do it in, writing a cover letter when applying for a job is totally different to messaging a friend.

So mix it up.

  • If you only write about your day or a holiday, have a go at comparing the food or weather in Vietnam to that in your country.
  • If you usually just send messages to friends, try to write the occasional longer essay or story.

By varying your practice, you’ll develop the ability to use Vietnamese in a wide variety of situations.

Over to you: Do you do more writing in a foreign language than you first thought? What styles of writing do you practice most often?

Unmissable Language Links – April 2014

Around the webSo much great content is written about language learning every month. Here’s my pick of unmissable articles from around the web.

Happy reading!

  • How to Bring Up Lagging Speaking Skills – Foreign Language Advice

    “I’m pretty sure that it’s a natural part of language development. I’m reasonably certain that you develop the ability to recognize language before you develop the ability to produce it.

    So what do you do when your speaking skills lag behind and you want to bring them up?”

    Read more

    – Ron Gullekson on Language Surfer

  • Why good feedback matters and how to get it

    “Feedback is an integral part of learning a foreign language and there is no doubt that we need it to improve. While it’s certainly possible to learn a lot with simply a lot of exposure to the language, both when it comes to spoken and written language, it’s very hard to increase accuracy in speaking and writing without feedback.”

    Read more

    – Olle Linge on Hacking Chinese

  • Language Practice: Why You Don’t Need A Native Speaker

    “What if you have NO native speaker to talk to? Does that mean you will stop learning a language?

    I’m not advocating that you avoid native level input and natural sources of your target language. They are what makes it come alive! By all means, make full use of Italki, social media and your own network to find a good language buddy, but please note the following:

    You don’t actually need a native speaker to practice with.”

    Read more

    – Kerstin Hammes on Fluent Language Tuition

  • Think in another language without translating

    “One of the things I have become aware of is to what extent “learning naturally by immersing yourself in a language” works. Is it possible to speak a foreign language “naturally” rather than having to consciously “translate” from your native language?”

    Read more

    – Chris Parker on The Polyglot Dream

Over to you: What was your favourite language learning article this month? Or what was the top tip or piece of advice you discovered in April?

Why is kitchen ‘nhà’ bếp not ‘phòng’?

Most rooms in the house have ‘room’ (phòng) as part of their name. Phòng ngủ (bedroom), phòng khách (living room), phòng ăn (dining room) but bathroom and kitchen are a notable exception: they use nhà (house or building).

This seems weird in this day and age where houses and flats are self-contained but think back several years to when outhouses were the norm, and it starts to make sense.

Traditionally Vietnamese people also cook outside of the main house, usually in outbuildings to protect the cooking area from wind and rain.

Not really the picture I was looking for, but the building on the left could be the kitchen... Source.

Not really the picture I was looking for, but many countryside houses have outbuildings… Source.

Having outbuildings is still a really common set-up in the countryside. In cities, where space is an issue, these facilities have been taken inside yet the names remain: nhà bếp (kitchen) and nhà vệ sinh (bathroom).

Is it phòng tắm or nhà vệ sinh?

Nowadays phòng tắm (where tắm means shower or wash) is often used for an inside bathroom, like you’d find in a house or hotel room. Whereas, like in English, toilet facilities in restaurants or other public places would be nhà vệ sinh.

3 more ways to learn Vietnamese through facebook

Use facebook to learn VietnameseA few months ago I shared 3 ways to learn Vietnamese through facebook.

To recap, they were:

  1. Chat with native speakers
  2. Translate your Vietnamese friends’ status updates
  3. Consider changing your language settings

I’ve since become a bit more conscious about how I practice and learn Vietnamese through facebook and come up with 3 more.

1. Click on the links your friends share

Instead of scouring the web, or picking things at random from our Resources List, just select the things that your friends recommend. Chances are a lot of these posts will interest you as you have things in common with your friends.

This is my favourite way of finding interesting authentic materials – whether that’s articles, songs, videos or even infographics.

2. Write statuses in Vietnamese

Quicker and less pressure than writing a diary about your day, share short funny anecdotes from your day or ask questions. Interact with the people who comment and continue a short conversation.

In some ways, this is a bit like chatting with someone but you have more time to look up new words and consider how to phrase what you want to say. You’re also just talking about one topic and don’t need to think of different things to say like you do in a chat.

3. Like fan pages

To get more exposure to authentic material (ie. Vietnamese written by and for Vietnamese people), you can like fan pages for Vietnamese a favourite musician, magazine, cooking blog or other celebrities like the most famous ‘foreigner’ who can speak Vietnamese, Joe Dâu Tây.

By liking a page you can take part in the community – read news updates about the person or magazine, read other fans’ comments or even post comments yourself. These news updates should be easier to understand than friends’ status updates which often use a lot of slang or shortened ‘text speak’.

Though if you just want to chat about learning Vietnamese, there’s always the More Vietnamese page.

Over to you: Do you use facebook to practice or learn Vietnamese?

Unmissable Language Links – March 2014

Around the webSo much great content is written about language learning every month.

Here’s my pick of unmissable articles from around the web, from the practical to the inspirational.

  • Whatever Your Dream May Be, Start Today

    “Seeing him living his dream up on that stage made me reflect on the many things I had dreamed of doing but had been too scared or lazy to begin. Inspired by his example, I started improv classes a few months ago and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life! Thank you Joe for the much needed kick in the ass.

    What are your dreams?”

    – John Fotheringham on Language Mastery

  • 12 Rules for Learning Foreign Languages in Record Time — The Only Post You’ll Ever Need

    “This definitive guest post by Benny will teach you:

    • How to speak your target language today.
    • How to reach fluency and exceed it within a few months.
    • How to pass yourself off as a native speaker.
    • And finally, how to tackle multiple languages to become a “polyglot” — all within a few years, perhaps as little as 1-2.

    It contains TONS of amazing resources I never even knew existed, including the best free apps and websites for becoming fluent in record time.”

    – Benny Lewis on The Blog of Tim Ferris

  • The top secret resource famous multilinguals use to learn many languages

    “The problem here, however is that the method is not important to learning languages. Don’t get me wrong, choosing the method that works for you is important for learning, and there are many steps one can take to improve language learning, but it’s just not as important as this secret resource.”

    – Chris Broholm on Actual Fluency

  • Extensive Reading for Building Vocabulary

    “The question: Can you build up your foreign language vocabulary by simply reading a lot?


    There’s a ton of research and anecdotal evidence out there that tout the benefits of extensive reading.


    The nice thing about being a blogger and not a scientist is that I get to use a little common sense and personal experience with all this.”

    – Ron Gullekson on Language Surfer

  • Are You Wasting Your Time Watching Foreign Language Movies?

    “By the end of this post, you will have a much clearer idea of the true benefits of watching movies in a foreign language. (Warning – it’s probably not what you’re expecting!)”

    – Olly Richards on I Will Teach You a Language

Happy reading!