Have you been doing something?

The last thing I posted is that you should do something, no matter how big or small, to get your learning back on track.

Somehow that was 2 months ago. So I thought I’d check in and ask how you’re doing, did you manage to do something? I did. Not quite as much as I’d hoped, but more than I did in March…

If you remember, I set two goals:

  • Writing a sentence a day in Korean, 5 days a week
  • Posting 3 words per week in the Instagram language challenge (IGLC)

Daily sentences

I wrote something 13 times in April. Many of these sentences were 2, 3 or even 4 sentences (so over the month I still totalled 30 ;)).

Korean daily sentences, early April

Half of my sentences were about food or being hungry, but not these ones.
(3/4: There’s no spring in southern Vietnam. April is really hot.
4/4: I really like Saturdays.)

As you can see, your sentences don’t have to be long, which makes this goal very achievable.

I felt like I was learning a lot, but in a manageable way. I had to look up the occasional new word, but not so many that it’s frustrating and you want to give up. Success!

Then I sort of stopped. I wasn’t carrying my notebook around with me much, or I did but just left it in my bag when I got home. Looking through my Kakaotalk, I still wrote Korean a few times in May. Semi-success? I’m not sure.

IGLC


I posted to Instagram 5 times in April and 4 in May. Not great. I found the theme in April difficult as it was spring-related during the hottest month of the year in Saigon! In May, I forgot to save the prompts infographic to my phone so I didn’t keep track of the daily theme. I’ve already put the June prompts on my phone, so hopefully I can meet to my aim next month!

Other things

I’m still looking for a decent Vietnamese drama series that I can get subtitled. I don’t really read fast enough to watch Korean dramas with Vietnamese subtitles. However I recently watched an American film that had Vietnamese subtitles, so I was able to glance at the subtitles to see how certain words and expressions had been translated. Interesting, but not a great study method.

Next month

Summer means extra work for me, so I don’t have time to do the italki lessons challenge* (one day I will!) or anything else particularly intensive. So I’m going to set similar goals:

  • Write a sentence a day in Korean (minimum 15 days).
  • Post 3 words per week in the Instagram language challenge (aim 10 words).
  • Keep reviewing vocabulary with Anki and Memrise every day.

Over to you: What have you been doing to boost your learning recently? What’s your aim for the next month?

How to start learning Vietnamese again after a break

Pretty notepad. Too pretty.

Pretty notepad. Too pretty.

Do you like my notepad? It’s pretty. So nice that I haven’t used it yet, even though I bought it months ago. Mostly because I don’t know what to write on the first page. It should be special for a special notepad, right…

Wait, what has this got to do with language learning?

Well, the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten out of the habit of daily learning. I’m still doing flashcards (almost) every day but that’s only going to help my maintain my level. I haven’t been learning anything new, even with a pretty notebook by my side..

A new start

So I bought a new one.

Cute notepad

It’s also fairly cute, but it only cost 3000 VND (about $0.14). So cheap that I can use it as a rough notebook. A place to jot down vocab I’ve just learnt or words I want to look up later. Or to draft some writing before putting it online to get corrected. Notes and scribbles are OK because it’s only a rough book.

Still, I didn’t know what to write on the first page. So I started on the last page.

What to write

While I’ve given you suggestions for writing topics before, I find that once I get started writing in Vietnamese one paragraph usually turns into a page. Who has time for that? On the other hand, my Korean level is so low that it would take ages to sit down and write any of those things.

So keeping it simple, I’m trying to write one sentence a day in Korean and get back to posting a new Vietnamese word to Instagram. But to keep it realistic, I’m aiming for 5 sentences per week and 3 vocabulary photos. If I aim for 7 I will most likely fail, and I don’t want to fail.

A little secret…I started the Korean sentences already. I’ve managed 8 out of 12 days so far and for many of those I actually wrote more than one line.

Daily writing

Except I have another secret. Even with my ‘rough’ notepad I’ve been… Scrap …writing on scrap paper first. I do this all the time. I have notebooks and textbooks stuffed with scrap paper. Yay for the environment (recycling), not so yay for being organised.

But who cares? I’m doing something again. It might be small, it might be a bit silly to write things out multiple times but it’s something. And it’s re-creating a habit.

And Vietnamese?

Tomorrow is also a new month, so a chance to get back on track with the Instagram Language Challenge too. Maybe I’ll post a picture tomorrow, maybe I’ll start on Thursday. But I’ll do something.

How to resume your language learning

Thảo ơi, I don’t want to write or share new words. What other easy things can I do?

Underline new words

  • Follow me on Instagram and learn my words (some are also cross-posted on Facebook).
  • Practice an answer to a simple question (like Anh/Em/Chị là người nước nào?) over and over again. Repeat your answer 10 or 20 times until you can do it without thinking. Then try again later. And again tomorrow.
  • Grab a book or online article and simply highlight the words you don’t know. You can look them up now. Or later. Or tomorrow. Or next week. But highlight them now.
  • Make an outline for something you want to write. Choose a topic and think about your key points. Even if you have to use English to take notes. Again you can look words up later. Just jot down a plan now.

Stopped learning? Just do something. Anything

If even the smallest task is a struggle, look here for advice on taking tiny baby steps towards building a habit.

Over to you: Have you stopped learning? What do you do to get yourself out of a rut?

PS. I’ve been meaning to write this for a while. Or post one of the countless other articles I need to finish editing first. So I’m breaking the habit – I’m posting. Doing something. (Notice a pattern?)

Learn vocabulary on Instagram

So, things have been busy for the past couple of months and probably will continue to be until Tết.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to join Lindsay on her quest to share new vocabulary on Instagram, starting this month. I’m aiming to post 3-4 pictures a week.

IGLC january 2015

You can find me on Instagram here.

morevietnamese-instagram

While you’re there, you should also follow Viet Wordly who post gorgeous Vietnamese vocabulary pictures.

Over to you: Have you ever used Instagram to learn new vocabulary? How about joining in with the challenge?

How to learn Vietnamese from videos

It’s a common misconception that watching films or videos will magically make you fluent.

But while passively listening to music or watching TV isn’t going to make you speak Vietnamese overnight – by actively engaging with the content, both music and movies can be a useful learning tool.

Learn new words and phrases from videos

Today we’re going to look at one way of using films or TV shows to improve your vocabulary.

The basic premise of this technique is that you use the video to find authentic, interesting phrases or words that you want to learn. After watching the show you use Anki to learn (or ‘internalise’) those new expressions.

What’s needed?

You need a video or film with Vietnamese subtitles.

I tend to prefer TV series over full-length films because of the continued storyline and repetitive vocabulary. Also because they’re shorter than full length films. It’s much easier to find time to occasionally watch a 30-60 episode of something or a 5 minute short story like Qùa Tặng Cuộc Sống.

Step 1: Find new words

You watch the video on your computer, with subtitles. When a new word or interesting phrase you want to learn comes up, pause and take a screencap. I usually quickly look it up in a dictionary or online to get approximate understanding of the meaning, then hit play and continue watching.

Work on your question form by learning phrases from a film.

Work on your question form by learning phrases from a film.

Top tip: Don’t spend too much time looking up words while you’re watching or you’ll spend 2h+ watching an 1 hour long show (or give up part way through). I usually have google translate open on my phone to get the gist of new vocab and take a screencap so I can look into it in detail later.

Step 2: Fully understand the new words

After the whole show, I go through my screencaps with a dictionary to accurately understand the meaning. Even if you think you know what it means, it’s really important to check so you’re certain.

For example, when using this method with French I assumed sans doute meant without a doubt but actually it’s more like maybe (sans aucun doute is without a doubt). That’s a big, fundamental difference!

Step 3: Make your flashcards

Put the sentences and screencaps into Anki or another customisable flashcard program.

An example recall flashcard

A recall flashcard for the video method

The flashcard contains the sentence translated loosely into English and this is what prompts me to recall the sentence.

Top tip: I usually do this in batches to break up Step 2. While working through the phrases with a dictionary I take a break every 5-10 minutes and put the cards into Anki.


How to Learn Spanish have a detailed video showing how this method works. It’s 90% what I do, though I differ from Andrew in that I keep the information displayed on my cards to a minimum and I use both Learn and Recall cards in Anki.

Advantages and disadvantages of this method

The advantages of this method are that it’s really enjoyable because you’re watching something you’re interested in and it’s authentic because you’re learning words and phrases in natural spoken contexts.

The context is very strong because you have visual and audio to go with the new vocabulary. You don’t just learn new vocab, you feel it. Often when prompted to recall a card, I imagine the scene where the line was said which helps me to remember it.

Disadvantages are that it can be hard to find enjoyable subtitled materials, the language can be very informal or even vulgar (a good dictionary should alert you of this) and you have to be careful when looking up and translating new words you learn this way. If you make a mistake and learn the wrong use of a word, it will be hard to relearn.

This last potential problem is one reason why I recommend this for intermediate learners or above, because at that stage you have a better feel for the language, you’re able to discern things about the language and better judge what is and isn’t useful to learn. Alternatively you could go through your sentences with a tutor or bilingual friend to ensure you’re correct.

However if there are also subtitles in your native language, you can use them to make your cards.

Over to you: Have you ever tried to ‘study’ a film or TV programme?

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)

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 and sometimes other languages. Update 2022: Only one show, Running Man, is available on viki.

Unfortunately the fans who make the English subtitles usually translate straight to English without putting up Vietnamese subtitles. I’ve previously used a VA to transcribe Episodes 2-4 of The Curse of Sapphire.

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?

Some of the links used on MoreVietnamese.com may be affiliate links. This means that I may receive a small commission if you subscribe or purchase something through the links provided, at no extra cost to you. This is a great way for you to support what I do. It is your choice whether you'd like to purchase or use the recommended tools and products.
Buy me a coffee