Our homeschooler tries to learn Vietnamese

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As with our Hongkong trip last December, our homeschooler is as curious and thrilled about speaking another language during our recent visit to Vietnam.  What we do together before flying to our country of destination is read some basic foreign words. For the most part, our son was the one who greeted and said thank yous, ever so gleefully, to those we interacted with. It is amazing how some of the words stuck and he would use them from time to time,  to this day.

It is a blessing that God has allowed for us to travel like we did and explore different cultures and languages. At 6 years old (during our last trip), he was thrilled to adventure with us as he was armed with his own vtech kidizoom camera. Those trips served as field trips of various learnings.

My son’s curiosity of foreign language brought us to looking closely at the Vietnamese language.  While we loved Vietnam so much, it was a real struggle to speak with their locals. Learning about their language allowed for us to better understand why that is.

  • The letters “F”, “J”, “W” and “Z” are not part of the Vietnamese alphabet, but are used in foreign words.
  • “W” (vê-đúp)” is sometimes used in place of “Ư” in abbreviations.
  • In informal writing, “W”, “F”, and “J” are sometimes used as shorthands for “QU”, “PH” and “GI” respectively.
  • The digraph “GH” and the trigraph “NGH” are basically replacements for “G” and “NG” that are used before “I”, in order to avoid confusion with the “GI” digraph. For historical reasons, they are also used before “E” or “Ê”.
  • G = [ʒ] before i, ê, and e, [ɣ] elsewhere
  • D and GI = [z] in the northern dialects (including Hanoi), and [j] in the central, southern and Saigon dialects.
  • V is pronounced [v] in the northern dialects, and [j] in the southern dialects.
  • R = [ʐ, ɹ] in southern dialects

When we learned about these basic differences of the Vietnamese characters and the English Alphabet, we better understood why they pronounce English words the way they do.  There were several moments when my son giggled when some words were pronounced differently by the Vietnamese tour guide. I had to explain to this homeschooler that it was not the time to correct the lady or even expect for them to pronounce as we do. Explaining the difference helped a whole lot and got this little man become more interested in learning another language.

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