Blog Archives

Where to watch Vietnamese videos with subtitles

Last week I wrote that watching Vietnamese films or dramas as a beginner can be a fun way to immerse yourself in Vietnamese and help to attune your ear to Vietnamese. To make this enjoyable as a beginner, it’s best to watch the video with subtitles in a language you are fluent in (eg. English subtitles).

For elementary or intermediate learners who want to improve your listening or pick up new vocabulary, watching with Vietnamese subtitles can make native language material (which may be too fast or full of slang) accessible to you.

Here are 3 places you can find Vietnamese movies, films, dramas or short videos with either Vietnamese or foreign subtitles:

1. More Vietnamese’s “Vietnamese With Subtitles” playlist on YouTube (vi)

More Vietnamese youtube playlistI’ve put together a YouTube playlist of Vietnamese short films and other videos with Vietnamese subtitles.

Currently the playlist has 15+ videos and I’ll continue adding more as and when I find them.

2. Vietnamese movies and dramas on Viki.com (en, fr, es)

viki Fan-made subtitles for dramas and movies worldwide. Most Vietnamese videos on the site have been subbed in English, with a sizeable number also available in French. Update 2017: Videos no longer seem to available on viki.

Unfortunately the fans who make the English subtitles usually translate straight to English without putting up Vietnamese subtitles. So far I’ve used a VA to transcribe Episodes 2-4 of The Curse of Sapphire. For one-offs this is cheap but it would be quite expensive to do this for everything. If a few people chip in I’d be happy to arrange some more transcriptions.

3. 10 Vietnamese Movies with English Subtitles (en)

A blog post recommending 10 Vietnamese movies with English subtitles and with links to some of them on YouTube.

Over to you: Do you watch Vietnamese films or dramas? Do you find using subtitles useful? Would you like to see more Vietnamese videos with Vietnamese subtitles?

How to find and add audio to Anki flashcards

Last month I introduced some techniques and tools for tackling hard-to-remember vocabulary.

My recommended solution for most words that you’ve learnt through your study, conversations or reading is spaced repetition. But most shared decks don’t have audio and if you make your own cards in Anki or elsewhere, how are you supposed to get (free) audio for them and what’s the best way to add the sound to your cards?

How to find free audio

If you already have the word in a recording (eg. as part of an MP3 lesson, podcast or recording of a conversation), you can use a tool like Audacity to edit it and get a clip of just the word you’re learning.

If you don’t or if you’d rather not do it that way, there are online tools you can use to get a recording of your target word.

1. Forvo

The website Forvo aims to collect a database of all the words in the world, pronounced by native speakers. The Vietnamese section has over 11,000 words pronounced already.

Just type the word in the search box and if it’s already been pronounced, it will turn up.

If the word you’re looking for is not there already, you can add it to a request list and someone will probably record it within a few days.

Advantages:

  • Most common words are already there, pronounced by native speakers.
  • You can download an MP3 recording of your target word if you create a (free) account.
  • Each word page has a map showing where the person who recorded it is from, so it’s easy to stick to Northern or Southern pronunciations as you wish.

Disadvantages:

  • It’s only single words (including compound words), so it’s no good for adding sentences or short phrases to your cards.
  • Because users make and upload their own recordings, the quality can vary and of course not every word is recorded in both Northern and Southern accents.

2. RhinoSpike

If you want custom recordings, community site RhinoSpike lets users request audio in exchange for uploading recordings in their native language for other users.

So if you want some sentences recording in Vietnamese, you’ll have to help 3 other users with your language first.

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

  • It can take a while for someone to record your audio (though you could find and make friends with Vietnamese users to speed this up).
  • You have to record or transcribe more than you request.

I usually wait until I have about 10 sentences I want recording and make one request with all of them, asking for a pause between. I then use Audacity to split the sentences in 10 files.

3. Other options

I haven’t used this personally, but here’s another option:

How to add and use audio with Anki cards

So now you have some audio, but how should you use it with your flashcards?

It’s easiest to explain this by a video:

Over to you: Do you find sound is important to help you remember words? Do you ever use audio with flashcards?

Photo credit: mlaiju

3 ways to remember vocabulary

Thảo ơi, I have a hard time remembering vocabulary. What can I do about it?

Some experts reckon it takes 6 or more meaningful exposures to a word to truly learn it, so it’s perfectly natural to struggle with this.

Luckily there are many tools out there designed to help language learners speed up the process of learning and remembering vocabulary.

Let’s start with the end goal.

What does “knowing” a word mean?

For most words, your aim is both to be able to understand it (passive knowledge) and to be able to use it yourself (active knowledge).

As I explained in a guest post on Lingholic, there are actually three stages to learning active vocabulary.

These stages take you through not only understanding the word, but also knowing what it sounds like, how it works in a sentence and how it’s spelt.

Situation 1: You’re missing some of this information

If you’re missing one of these pieces of information, that is the first thing you should tackle. Go to Forvo to hear how it’s pronounced, look in a dictionary to check the spelling or do a quick search to find example sentences.

Knowing words is important, but using them is even better.

Knowing words is important, but using them is even better.

Say Situation 1 is not your problem. Say you’re already familiar with these basic pieces of information about the word, but you’re still having problems. Again, we need to get more specific.

Is the word not going in the first place or are you forgetting it?

Let’s take that second case: you keep on forgetting the word.

Memory Tool 1: Spaced Repetition

As I said in the introduction, you need to see or hear a new word repeatedly for it to sink in.

You’re also inclined to forget it over time. This is the premise behind Spaced-Recognition Software (SRS). This software is designed to re-expose you to the word just as you’re about to forget it.

Projected forgetting with and without spaced repetition Source.

Projected forgetting curves. Look at the difference spaced repetition makes! Source.

These systems are designed to help you with that second stage of learning vocabulary – internalising the new word.

They’re not supposed to be a way to find new vocabulary to learn.

For this reason, a lot of people recommend creating your own cards rather than memorising a list of someone else’s vocab. Personalising your learning also means you are more engaged and motivated – a key to success in language learning!

Top Tool: Anki

Anki SRS is a program available in a desktop version (free) and as an app for Android (free) and iPhone (paid).

These sync through a simple website (free), which you could use to study on the go if you have an internet connection but you don’t have a smartphone.

Using Anki to review Vietnamese vocabulary

Anki is highly customisable. You can add as little or as much information as you want. You can use categories, tags or extra fields. You can add pictures or sound files. You can use cards that translate to your native language, or keep it entirely in Vietnamese.

I’ll have more tips on using and customising Anki in a future post.

Other systems

Anki was the first spaced repetition software I tried and I liked it so much that I haven’t actually tried anything else. But there are many other similar programs such as Flashcard Deluxe.

SRS revision of new vocabulary doesn’t have to be flashcards. The principle is also built-in to some courses like Pimsleur lessons.

SRS won’t solve everything

It’s not a replacement for other study methods like taking a course, reading articles and actually speaking to people in Vietnamese.

But by using these smart flashcards for a few minutes a day, you can increase the speed of learning new vocabulary and retain it for longer.

Even then, SRS won’t solve all your vocabulary problems. You will still forget words. This is part of the learning process. Sometimes you will have to go back to your notes or textbook to look at the word again. Perhaps you need more information or you need to take a different approach to learning it.

Memory Tool 2: Mnemonics

Back to the question – how can we improve how we remember vocabulary? Especially for words that just seem to go in one ear and out the other.

Mnemonics can be really useful.

mnemonic (noun)
A device, such as a formula or rhyme, used as an aid in remembering.

You probably remember some rhymes designed for this purpose – like the one for the colours of the rainbow (Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain) or how many days are in each month (30 days have September, April, June and November…).

The rainbow rhyme helps you to remember the colours of the rainbow.

The rainbow rhyme is an example of a mnemonic to help you remember the colours of the rainbow.

They’re a pretty good memory tool, but the dictionary definition seems to overlook the fact that images are one of the most powerful aids to the memory (especially for visual learners).

Mnemonics and language learning

These rhymes, word associations and imagery tied to locations or stories can be applied to language learning. They can be used to remember words or phrases and even to learn to read new scripts.

The links above give you some great examples on how to get started and make good mnemonics.

When using mnemonics to learn Vietnamese words, you may well find it helpful to include the tone in your rhyme or image.

Top Tool: Memrise

A website that combines mnemonics with SRS and gamification is Memrise.

The basic idea is that you create a ‘mem’ to represent a word or idea. As Memrise themselves say:

“In order to learn anything, you first have to connect it to what you already know. Memories aren’t stored nowhere, you know, they’re always made by creating connections to existing memories. Now, the more your brain does to encode a fact or word, the richer and more robust the resultant memory.”

You can map it to something in your own language or your target language. Whatever works for you.

The best mems are creative – they’re funny, or silly, or gross. That helps make them memorable.

When you input a word, you can see the mems or images that other people are using and select one of those if you like, or use their database to find an image to make your own. If there is already audio for the word you’re learning, Memrise will automatically integrate it for you.

One of my 'mems'.

One of my ‘mems’. It’s not the most creative but it helped me stop mixing up two words that both begin with giải.

Once you have your ‘mem’, Memrise then takes you through a series of game-like exposures to the word where you win points for correct answers.

Like with Anki, there are pre-made sets of words but again finding one that matches your textbook or making your own ‘course’ with words you want to learn is generally more effective.

While Memrise started as a website, there are also Android and iPhone apps so you can easily review vocabulary while on the go.

A word of caution…

Memrise by default emphasises recalling words (Stage 3) very early on and prompts you to type them correctly into a box. The mems are not used as part of practice. You might find it beneficial to stick to courses labelled ‘no typing’ that focus on multiple choice instead or just use the app where you (usually) don’t have to type in the answer.

What’s the best way to combine these 3 approaches to remembering vocabulary?

Going back to what I said at the beginning, you learn new words by getting repeated exposure to them. You don’t actually need to use any tools if you don’t want to. However accept that it will take some time, just like it does when learning your native language as a child.

This article presented you with 3 different solutions to your vocabulary problems, depending on why you are struggling to remember a word.

Here’s a handy flowchart reminding you how to find the root of the problem and my solution for tackling each one.

The steps to tackling tricky words. Download PDF.

The steps to tackling tricky words. Download PDF.

Over to you: How do you remember vocabulary? What problems do you encounter?

Image credit: HikingArtist and monique72

Absolute Beginner: How & Where to start learning Vietnamese

If you don’t know a word of Vietnamese, where should you start?

I don’t know about you but I find it tricky to learn the first few words of any language. It sounds totally different or even strange. A sentence might sound really fast or a word seems really long. This is normal.

I like to start off slowly. I find audio courses or textbooks are overload to start with. They’re simply too much to take in at once. When you first start learning, even short sentences can be really difficult to remember. I started by learning just a few words at a time.

An Introduction to Vietnamese

If you have a burning question about Vietnamese like what alphabet does Vietnamese use or what are all those accent marks, head to the Frequently Asked Questions.

For a general introduction to Vietnamese, this video by Rusty Compass is the best.

Where to learn a few basic words

In general, the most important thing is just to start learning today, with whatever you have. You can fine tune what you learn later.

Essential vocabulary

Although the way we speak is in sentences, you do need to build your vocabulary sooner or later. Here are 120 common words with audio.

Travel & Expat phrases

If you’re in Vietnam already or soon heading there, there is some essential vocab and phrases you’ll use on a daily basis.

So if you’re planning to travel to Vietnam soon, start with these traveller vocabulary videos.

If you’re going to be living in Vietnam, here are some common phrases useful for expats.

A Beginner Series

If you want to learn some basic vocabulary like colours or hobbies (eg. before starting a course or using a textbook), the video series produced by EverydayViet.com is my favourite. Start here with learning to say thank you.

You can follow up on this video series by practising the vocabulary on Memrise.com. There are courses where you can practice vocabulary by multiple choice or by typing the answer.

Listening

If you want to get used to the sound and rhythm of Vietnamese, you could listen to music or even watch videos with Vietnamese subtitles.

Learning to read

The Vietnamese alphabet is really phonetic (ie. letters are always pronounced the same way), you just need to learn what letters match up to what sounds. Then you can start to pick up new vocabulary when you see it written down, or be able to correctly read out the items on a menu.

Then what?

Once you’re familiar with some basics, you can choose which accent to study and start with a course, textbook or tutor.

Over to you: Are you just starting to learn Vietnamese? Why are you learning and what are you using? More experienced learners, what are your favourite beginner resources?

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?