Welcome to the first in a series of interviews with successful Vietnamese language learners. We hope you’ll be interested in and motivated by their stories!
Name: Adam Seex
Location: Ho Chi Minh City
What level are you?
I would say I’m currently Upper-Intermediate.
When and why did you start learning Vietnamese?
I started learning Vietnamese 3 years ago. The journey started at a small smoothie shop, learning the names for fruits and communicating in pigeon Vietnamese with the owner of that shop. From there I met my first teacher. We agreed to exchange languages and the more I started to learn the more motivating it was and the more I pushed on. From that point I spent most of my time communicating with Vietnamese people rather than actually studying from a book.
Have you ever studied a language before? Do you speak it well?
I studied French and German in secondary school. I sucked at those. I still remember how to answer simple questions like ‘what did you do at the weekend?’ but that’s about as far as my communicative ability goes.
How is Vietnamese similar and/or different to your native language and/or other languages you’ve learnt?
Vietnamese is totally different. Take the word ‘book’ for example. In German it’s ‘buch’, in Dutch it’s ‘boek’ but in Vietnamese it’s ‘cuốn sách’. It couldn’t be further away from any language I’ve learnt in the past.
What do you like about learning Vietnamese?
I like learning Vietnamese because I use it everyday. It’s really super useful.
What do you think is most important when learning Vietnamese?
The most important thing is the pronunciation. Once you get your head round the tones it’s just a matter of adding vocabulary and learning structures.
And what should people try to avoid?
People should avoid learning Vietnamese from books. Vietnamese is a living language just like English – if you learn what they teach you in the books then when it comes to communicating then you’ll either be misunderstood or won’t understand what’s going on. I found that to be particularly true when I heard my girlfriend communicating with her friends; it was nothing like what I had learnt before…but after a lot of exposure, you get it.
Do you have a funniest or most memorable moment?
The most memorable moment is when I said ‘dỉ nhiên’ (of course) but I pronounced the D (Vietnamese) as the English D…which means ‘Nhiên is a whore’.
What’s your favourite word or phrase, and why?
Urm…biết chết liền…
What are your favourite tools/resources for learning or practicing Vietamese?
I like watching movies and reading Conan. I don’t really use this to study…I just enjoy them.
When the going gets tough, how do you stay motivated?
It’s important to remember that you should try to grasp the main ideas rather than understand every word that is uttered. Even in English we don’t listen and understand every word but we still manage to communicate.
Finally, what’s your top tip?
The best thing to do is keep a diary. Try to write a page (I did 2) every day. You’ll find that you learn new words which are appropriate to your life very quickly…and what do we talk about with our friends most often? We talk about what happened in our day! If you practice writing this every single day and talk about it every single day then this is the backbone to learning a language successfully and quickly!