Filipino is my native language and English my second (as this was really part of our educational curriculum). I took a language class in Spanish as part of my elective in college and since it was only for one semester, I didn’t really pick up the language — although most Filipino words are Spanish, the times didn’t call for us to use Spanish in our daily conversations — except when we talk about money, time or if we’re playing Bingo (sa letrang I, dise-nueve!). 😛
When I was already working, a couple of friends and I joined a Mandarin class. The Chinese language has always been attributed to business so we were thinking learning a Chinese dialect can help us in our careers. Interestingly, a few months after, I was hired by a company with almost 90% of its employees, including top management, were Chinese. Their dialect was Fookien — my Mandarin class didn’t help one bit but it sure made me feel at home with the company.
Fast forward to 2009 and we had to move here to Vietnam. The Vietnamese words are monosyllabic and the language itself is pretty difficult to pick up with an untrained ear and tongue. The Vietnamese language rely heavily on accentuation marks which can be (and still is) confusing at first. Even writing it requires a bit of thinking as you have to discern what is the right accent mark to put. I guess this is where the French influence manifests itself.
In general, Vietnam is not an English-speaking country BUT they’re slowly getting there. With several international schools, language schools, and a steady stream of English tutors around, they’ll be better than Filipinos in no time. I kid you not because my Vietnamese officemates are really terrific English speakers.
Last year, I joined a weekly Vietnamese class with our priest as our teacher, Fr. Lito. Too bad he left for Manila already for further studies. It was a delightful and insightful experience learning a new language. Aside from learning Tieng Viet, we were given a chance to understand the Vietnamese culture as well. Language is the doorway to understanding a people and its culture.
Unfortunately, I don’t get to practice much Vietnamese as I’ve been working in an English-speaking environment, my nanny is a superb English and Filipino speaker (though she’s Vietnamese), and as I’ve said, the Vietnamese are picking up English really well. But I’m thankful that I know how to read the Vietnamese words with the correct accents especially when giving out an address to the cab driver. I actually can read Vietnamese but I don’t know all the meaning to what I’m reading or saying!
However, every now and then, I persuade my Vietnamese friends and officemates to teach me new words. Apart from the usual, greetings, numbers and directional phrases such as quay phai (turn right), quay trai (turn left), dung lai / a dai (stop here), di thang (go straight), and quay lai (U-turn), I told them to teach me useful things. And so far, here’s what they taught me:
chet may – go to hell
di di – go, go now
ram long – hairy
bien thai – sexual deviant
bao trong – take care
im di – shut up!
troi oi! – Heavens! or Oh My God!
My officemate Hai, who sits right across me is the guy behind all the mean stuff I learn. It’s better knowing all the bad stuff so you know they’re not saying that about you on the streets. 😛
If you have new Vietnamese words/phrases you think will be useful for me, please share!
Hen gap lai sao! Tam biet!