And these are my reflections on learning to speak Vietnamese.
I am learning to speak Vietnamese using Rosetta Stone. I have tried all kinds of funky stuff on my iPad that is supposed to help you learn different languages but none of it is really any good. But now Rosetta Stone..! This is some good language learning software. And there a million reasons why. Before I get into why Rosetta Stone is so good, let me explain why I am even attempting to learn such a complex language at my age (that’s for you Steve Hart!).
My youngest daughter is from Vietnam and this last summer we traveled to Asia and went to Vietnam, near Hanoi where she was born. Through an extremely lucky series of events, we managed to meet her birthmother, whose name we had, but who we had been told had moved away. In addition to finding her birthmother, we found her birthfather and siblings and grandparents.
We all agreed to meet and luckily had a wonderful translator/guide/all around fantastic person Mr Long to translate to and from English and Vietnamese as we got to know each other. We got to meet three times during our time in Vietnam. To say it was memorable doesn’t even begin to do moments and revelations justice.
We promised to stay in touch (somehow) having shared email addresses, and parted. It wasn’t until we received the first email from Thang (our daughter’s birthfather) with Steve and I addressed as ông và bà which translates literally to “grandfather and grandmother” using Google translate that I knew we were in for a long, hard ride trying to communicate.
The second email we received looked like this:
Xin chµo:stephanie vµ steve.chóc c¸c b¹n ngµy vui vÎ.stephanie v¸teve cã khoÎ kh«ng?
Mck h«m nµo ®i häc,cã ngoan kh«ng ? mck ®i häc cã xa kh«ng ?
T«i xin göi lêi chóc tèt ®Ñp tíi c¸c b¹n.
Võa qua t«i göi tíi c¸c b¹n, bøc th u b»ng tÕng viÖt, c¸c b¹n cã ®äc ® îc kh«ng?
C¸c b¹n th«ng c¶m cho chóng t«i.vÒ ng«n ng÷ dÞch vµ ch÷ viÕt cßn nhiÒu nçi.
C¸c b¹n kh«ng ®äc ® îc.
C¶m ¬n c¸c b¹n.
Now, even if you don’t know Vietnamese AT ALL, you can look at this and see the registered trademark symbols and see that something is not right here. The new paragraph, division, superscript symbols and possibly some Russian mixed in didn’t help. Either Yahoo did something weird when the email was sent from Vietnam or some substandard translation software was used. Anyway…
I have had to depend on others to translate the emails for me which has resulted in me getting teary in front of colleagues as they read moving text from our daughter’s birthfather. Not being able to say certain things in a room full of people with a translator….there…..
So many things have led me to believe that I want to read and speak Vietnamese for myself.
So I chose Rosetta Stone because like that midwestern farm boy I wanted to be able to speak to that French model. No wait….I’ve been reading too many airplane magazines…..
I chose Rosetta Stone because I did research and they seemed to have the best method and they had a mobile version I could use with my iPad. Yep, for me it’s all about my obsession….(another nod to Mr. Hart).
I am going to end this first installment of my reflections on learning Vietnamese with the tantalizing observation that Vietnamese is a tonal language. So every sentence feels like a roller coaster which is pretty cool, actually.
Tonight, I have my first live tutoring session with a Rosetta Stone native Vietnamese speaker. Wish me luck!