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Improve your spelling

It’s fairly easy to learn how to read Vietnamese words aloud. It’s a bit trickier spelling them due to letters which can sound similar like a and ă, or are essentially the same like gi- and d-.

However you can improve your spelling with practice.

Tip #1: Write more

Because I learnt a lot of my basic Vietnamese by talking to friends, my spelling used to be awful.

My spelling used to suck

My spelling sucked until I started to practice writing

By getting your writing corrected and learning how to spell the words you got wrong, you can drastically improve your spelling.

Sometimes you’ll be able to remember these corrections right away. Sometimes you’ll have to practice spelling the words until you can consistently get them right.

Tip #2: Use Memrise or Anki with an input box

You can review vocabulary and test your spelling with a flashcard system like Memrise.com. You could also do this in Anki by creating a text input field and adding a third card to practise typing it.

Learn how to spell the words you get wrong

If you’ve done some writing and made a list of the words you got wrong, add them to a flashcard program so that you keep reviewing their spelling over time.

Use memrise to test your spelling

Words I’ve misspelt recently

Do this often and you’ll learn to spell common words correctly.

Learn to spell words correctly before you need them

Even now, there are a lot of Vietnamese words that I can say but can’t spell or can’t remember the tones for.

A good way to learn spell to familiar words like this is to download a deck in Anki or select a Memrise course with vocabulary you’ve already studied.

memrise-review

I’ve learnt about buildings but can I spell them all? Let’s see.

Practice the vocabulary through the Memrise system.

If you can spell the word correctly – great!

If you get it wrong, take note of the correct spelling and continue revising it in Memrise.

memrise-test

Is it ngoại thành or ngoài? Looks like I need to review this.


By reviewing words before you need them, you’ll improve your spelling and cut down on the number of words you have to look up in the dictionary.

Over to you: Do you struggle with spelling? How do you practice?

12 topics to kickstart your Vietnamese writing

Choosing writing topics can be difficult Do you feel like you should write in Vietnamese, but you don’t really know what to write about?

Choosing the right topic enables you to practice your Vietnamese in a low-pressure setting. Writing gives you time to think about what you want to say, to build on what you’ve been learning and to try out new things.

But sometimes it can be hard to choose what to write about. If you pick the wrong topic for your interests or your level, it can frustrate you, kill your motivation and even cause you to give up and avoid writing.

It can be tricky to know what to write about. Here are 12 ideas to get you started.

  1. Make up a conversation

    This is a great one for beginners. It can be hard trying to write when you don’t have much language to work with, so go with what you know and write a fictitious dialogue between two friends or colleagues.

    Intermediate learners can also use this to practice different types of writing because you can vary how formal it is by changing characters. This can be a good way to check if you’re using slang or polite words like thưa in the right way.

  2. Keep a diary

    Write about your daily routine or recount something unique or different about your day. If you’re struggling at first, commit to just writing one sentence each day. It will get easier over time.

  3. Describe a trip or event

    Write about an interesting event like a dinner party or wedding you attended or describe a holiday or day trip you’ve been on.

  4. Practice vocabulary

    Think of sentences or stories based on new vocabulary you’ve come across.

    Eg. If you learn the word ‘leo’ (climb), you could write a few sentences about any mountains you’ve climbed, climbing trees when you were a kid, or why you’d never do either of those things.

  5. Write about a hobby

    Describe when and why you got started with one of your hobbies (or why you’re learning Vietnamese) and how often you practice it.

  6. Describe a familiar place

    Write about a place you know well – like where you grew up or went to university. As well as describing it physically, say what you like about it.

  7. Write about a local event

    Explain about a festival or annual event in your town, why it started and what usually happens.

  8. Comparisons

    Make a comparison between something in your country and that in Vietnam. Eg. differences in climate, eating habits, transport…

  9. Story summaries

    Summarise what you watch or read in your free time. Even if that film or book was in English or another language, you can still practice Vietnamese by describing the basic story, key events and why you liked (or didn’t like) it.

  10. Use the same topic as your study material

    Write your own take on a topic that you’ve seen/read about in Vietnamese.

    Eg. If you listen to someone describing their best friend, write about your own.

  11. Translate something
  12. Find a short article or letter that you’ve read in your native language and translate it into Vietnamese.

    This is a harder task than writing something directly in Vietnamese, but on the other hand you don’t have to think about what to say.

  13. Ask questions

    Ask questions in Vietnamese about the language or culture.

    If you wrote a sentence while chatting that you didn’t think was natural, rewrite it, ask questions and find out a better way to say it.

    Or you could ask about something you’ve read or pose a cultural question like if people really chew betel nuts.

    Post your questions on a peer-correction site like Lang-8 or iTalki*, wait for answers from native speakers and make it a discussion by responding to them.

Keep a list

Instead of trying to think of a topic every time you’re in the mood to write, keep a list of things you want to write about.

As you go about your daily life, look out for potential topics and jot them down. That way, when you’re in the mood to write you can simply look at your list and go with one of those ideas.

Over to you: Do you struggle to think of things to write about? Did this list of topics inspire you, if so… What’s your next piece of writing going to be about?

Photo credit: ralaenin

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?

fb-chat

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.

Formal

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

Informal

  • 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?

Using lang-8.com to correct your writing

When you start writing in Vietnamese, whether you keep a diary or write topical short essays, it’s vital to get your work corrected by a native so you can learn and improve.

If you don’t have, or don’t want, your teacher or native-speaker friend to correct every single thing you write, that’s where a website like lang-8.com can come to your aid. You can write something of any length, any title, any topic and native speakers will be able to read, correct and often also include explanations for their corrections or provide alternative ways of saying something.

Example of a correction at lang-8

In return you should read and correct journal entries written by other people learning your native tongue.

In my experience, I get a lot of corrections on my essays as the number of native Vietnamese users is higher than the number of Vietnamese learners. If you get so many corrections that you find it hard to go through them all, consider making your journal entries only viewable to your friends.

Friends-only journal setting

Over to you: Do you get your writing corrected? Have you used lang-8? Tell us in the comments!