Introduction to Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt): Part Two


Tiếng Vit

Continuing on from Part One…building clauses and full sentences tangentially is an efficient and lasting way to build vocabulary and memory. Thus, instead of just attempting to memorize 20 words you can begin speaking/developing a region of your brain dedicated exclusively to Vietnamese and, most importantly, begin creating spontaneous (improvised) sentences when faced with a new question or conversation point.

This tangential approach from multiple angles that I used/use for my own Vietnamese language learning was inspired by my saxophone teacher Ornette Coleman’s “HARMOLODIC” theory of improvisation. By treating the structural and dynamic elements of music equally at all times during improvisation, this HARMOLODIC Theory set a transitive precedent for multi-vectored language acquisition. The reason I know it works is that, due to my need to develop basic fluency skills in a number of languages for my doctoral research (which changed mid-degree), I had to find a way to quickly learn the grammatical rudiments of several dialects in quick succession. Thus, at one time or another, I was able to speak basic Arabic, Korean, Farsi (Iran), Urdu, French, and Mandarin, as well as my ongoing conversational German and Vietnamese, and fluent Japanese. !اللغة العربية الفصحى هي جميلة جدا

Believe me, this is not at all a brag. I am no genius, and I am not good at language learning. I am not one of those people, like my genius advisor Dr. Regula Qureshi, who have native fluency in multiple languages. But if you work hard and find a language acquisition strategy that suits you, it can be done, and it is fun. Ornette Coleman’s HARMOLODIC theory (adapted) is what I discovered worked for me. Heck, I should publish a paper on it:

“HARMOLODIC Theory As Parergon To Third/Fourth Order Language Acquisition”
©1997/2014 Dr. Daniel Schnee

But I digress…

We learned last lesson that simple particles marked the tenses of a verb. To say that I “verb” a noun we now need to add “là” (am) and “một” (one or a):

Tôi là mt ___.             I am a…(pronounced like “mutt”, except fast and abruptly).

Tôi là một nhc sĩ.      I am a musician (pronounced “nyak shee”)

Adding the set phrase “không phải” (pronounced “k/hong fye”) negates the noun, thus you are not something:

Tôi không phi là một ____.            I am not a…(pronounced “k/hong fye”)

Tôi không phải là thiên tài.           I am not a genius (pronounced “tee-en tie”).

Tên tôi là Daniel.                          My name is Daniel.

To describe yourself as a musician who plays a specific instrument you must call yourself người chơi, literally “person play,” which translates figuratively “a person who plays the…”. Thus:

Tôi là một người ______.                   I am a (something) person (“gnoy-i”).

Tôi là một người Mỹ.                       I am an American (“gnoy-ee Mee-ee”).

Tôi là một người chơi sax.               I am a saxophone player (“choy-ee”).

If you like something, simply add thích (“tick”) to the sentence before the noun or verb:

Tôi thích nhạc jazz.                         I like jazz music. (lit: “I like music jazz”).

You can also describe yourself as having the ability to play the saxophone by saying “can” or “cannot”:

Tôi có th chơi saxophone.             I can play the saxophone (“co-tay”).

Tôi không th chơi saxophone        I cannot play the sax (“k/hong-tay”)

If you remember Part One of this series, you will recall that adding đã (“da-a”) to a sentence made it a past action, ability, or state. Thus you simply add it to create the condition of having had or not having had the ability to play the saxophone:

Tôi đã có th chơi saxophone.         I could play the saxophone.

Tôi đã không thể chơi saxophone.  I couldn’t play the saxophone.


© 2014 Daniel


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