Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Vietnamese Class: Week 3
We had a new member join our Vietnamese class last week. She was a Vietnamese woman who came over when she was three. Her parents speak Vietnamese to her, and she understands it a bit, but she doesn't really speak it at all. The other guy in my class is half Vietnamese: his mother spoke some Vietnamese to him when he was growing up but he never really learned to speak.
We didn't learn too much new stuff in week 3. A couple more introductory dialogues, some new words, and lots more pronunciation practice. I'm feeling better about my pronunciation and awareness of tones, but am also feeling a bit discouraged by the slow pace of picking up vocabulary and comprehension. I guess with Vietnamese you just have to put in a lot of time getting yourself to think about and recognize the various tones before you can go anywhere.
During the class we touched briefly on the intriguing problem of Vietnamese homonyms. Because the romanized script is strictly phonetic, homonyms are always spelled identically, making it impossible to distinguish the proper meaning without the help of context. Part of the problem is that the Chinese ideograms used in written Vietnamese before romanization of the writing system would have made clear the meaning of a particular word: even if words with different meanings had identical pronunciation, the ideograms would have been distinct.