Friday, June 21, 2013

Learning Vietnamese

It feels like a long time since I've slammed face-first into the language barrier, being spoiled by the ESL Philippines and hanging around exclusively touristy areas of Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand after a couple of months in Australia where they spoke something that sounded kind of like English. I just nodded and didn't take the beer tinnie out of my mouth.

So on arrival in Vietnam, I really wasn't prepared for people not being able to speak my language fluently. Even though I've been to this country before and experienced this firsthand through several confusing, open-ended conversations with the staff on night buses, I just forgot language was an issue. I guess I've got really lazy since getting an English-speaking girlfriend and only learning a few choice Bisaya phrases so we can converse discreetly around foreigners. Those conversations are none of your business.

I brushed up on a couple of essential Vietnamese phrases I found scrawled in my notebook from my previous visit, which I'm doubtless pronouncing wrong as no one understands even when I attempt to say the names of major cities, and I always keep a sweaty page of food vocabulary to hand so we don't accidentally eat non-kosher animals like pigs and prawns or non-sane animals like doggies.

I also learned numbers one to ten using a handy memory aid. That's right, long-time followers - that shiver running down your spine and death rattle escaping your throat can only mean one thing. It's the long-dreaded return of my mental mental images. The system bloody works! Almost certainly for me alone.