25 January, 2022

Vietnamese is Killing Me!

I have taken an obnoxious lover and, anxious as I am to be rid of him, I keep going back for more torture.

This "lover" is the Vietnamese language. Studying and paying for lessons is the torture.

Vietnamese is like a nasty, neglectful, annoying lover, who sends you into the arms of your ex - also terrible, but slightly less terrible - lover. In this scenario, Mandarin is my ex-lover. Another difficult language, but when I'm screamingly annoyed with Vietnamese, switching over to my Mandarin story books or character review and practice feels like sighing in the arms of a comforting old love.

...Let me be clear, I don't know what it's like to run from one bad lover back to a former bad lover. But I get that it happens, and that's kind of what studying Vietnamese feels like sometimes.

I have no ear for the different sounds I'm supposed to hear in Vietnamese, and the language is different through the different parts of the country - which you wouldn't think would be an issue as long as I remain in the Central coast, but people move here from everywhere, especially with Covid surges in the big cities of Hanoi and Saigon, so my minuscule use of Vietnamese garners pronunciation corrections that are not the same corrections I get from my teacher!

Urgh. So frustrating.

It's annoying, and feels impossible. It seems like I put so much time and effort into this "relationship" only to reap minimal reward. (I can read more traffic signage now. Woop.) Mandarin is like pulling up a cozy blanket and sitting in a comfy chair reading a good book. (I'm reading the Frog and Toad series in Chinese. Nostalgia.)

Will studying a language kill me? Of course not really, but soon I'm going to have to consider whether it's worth spending the time on it when I should be doing other things that bring more immediate value to my life.

This is the first in a new series of posts I want to write, about life, or aspects of life, especially expat life. No politics, no controversy (I hope). Questions always welcome!



  1. One would hope that speaking it in the community would help you learn it. But as someone who has no ear for language, I have no idea if that works in practice or not. Good luck.

  2. Liz - (can't reply, still) That would be a HUGE help! The thing is, we live in a tourist town (well, touristy pre-Covid) so most of the businesses/vendors we actually deal with have a reasonable grasp of English. I use Vietnamese occasionally, but they aren't expecting it, so try to hear English through my Vietnamese. This could be a whole other post. So English becomes the go-to, with a few exceptions.

  3. You may have to do what that American star in Beijing did. He made a decision that every time he steps out of his house, he would ONLY speak Chinese. That forced him to develop the language.

    1. I could try it, but most of the people I actually interact with want to practice their English. Good idea, though!


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