Sunday, February 04, 2007

Vietnamese Class Week 4: I'd like a Coke

One of the other two students in the class didn't show up this week, so we got a lot of personalized attention during our last session. Just as I was beginning to get frustrated with the lack of progress in learning basic vocabulary, we started in on some useful basic words. We practiced one dialogue where we learned to say "I'd like to drink a glass of Coca Cola." I doubt that there was any product placement, as our textbook, written by a Vietnamese professor at UC Berkeley, is relatively obscure and doesn't seem to have other conspicuous product names.

In any event, the sentence was useful because it was an easy step from there to substituting "eat", "want", and "like" for "drink". As I've mentioned before, it seems that the creators of the Vietnamese language, in their wisdom, decided that after requiring such tremendous effort in producing and understanding the various tones, they would cut Vietnamese learners a break on the grammar end of the equation. Vietnamese grammar is, from what I can tell so far, ridiculously simple. This comes as a great relief after the three weeks we've already spent trying to beat the tones into our heads. There are no conjugations. For example, the same verb, "an", is used in the same form regardless of the subject. So "he", "you", "I", "they", "the Nelsons", etc., all use the same form of the verb.

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