Skip to Content

Page 8


Laughing at myself….

I have to say that my Vietnamese language teacher, Nga, “gets me”.  Nga is patient (beyond belief) as I struggle to consistently pronounce the subtleties of the 5 diacritics (the tone marks above letters) used in words to describe the 6 tones (flat [or level], rising, falling, low-rising, broken low-rising, low-falling) that distinguish the correct pronunciations of words in Vietnamese. Nga also tolerates (quite well) my tendency to not remember vocabulary words, spend enough time practicing what I learn to become more fluent, and my getting off-task during our lessons.

I think we recently had a break through (and an epiphany for me), however. In English when you break it down, we run words together. Meaning that it is our tongue that interrupts the sound our voice produces that makes the words - we really don't stop making a sound unless we have a pause in the sentence. Stated differently, we don't really put a space between our words. This is why we can always tell when we are listening to a computer generated conversation. No matter how hard it tries, a computer will always have a space/break in between each individual word; and that's what make the computer speech sound stilted/halted/broken. 

In the Vietnamese language, there are definite spaces in between words and certain words couple together to set up a rhythm in their speech. This, I believe, allows one to utilize the 6 tones (flat [or level], rising, falling, low-rising, broken low-rising, low-falling). Ever since I have gone out of my way to insert spaces in-between words, people have begun to better understand me when I speak.

What led to this breakthrough was my sharing with Nga that sometimes people don't seem to understand me when I speak, and at other times they have no problem.  Nga found a great meme that says it all. 

The phrase that the English speaker is saying in Vietnamese is “Xin chào, một cà fé sữa đá” or  “Hello, one milk coffee with ice”  but the person is not using the diacritics, which is why the cat is saying “whaaat?” This is what a Vietnamese would hear: "xin-chow-moat-kahfay-sue-a-da"  instead of "Xin [flat] [space] chào [falling tone] [space], một [low-falling] [space] cà [falling tone] [space] fé [raising tone] [space] sữa [broken low-rising] [space] đá [raising tone]. Don't misunderstand with all the [space] in between, the space happens quickly so it doesn't end up sound choppy, rather, it becomes melodic sounding.

Here's the link to the meme: 

By the way, today I went to my fav coffee shop and said “Xin chào, cho tôi một cà fé sữa đá” (Hello, give me a milk coffee with ice) and I am happy to say that they gave me what I asked for - without asking me to repeat myself. That said, they were surprised I didn't have my usual “Cá fé đen đá” (black coffee on ice).

small glass of water on left and tall glass on right with coffee and milk on ice



JULY, p. 9

AUGUST, p. 9


OCTOBER,  p.g 2,  p. 3, p. 4

NOVEMBER p.2, p.3, p.4, p.5, p.6, p.7

DECEMBER p.2, p.3, p.4, p.5 p.6, p.7, p.8

JANUARY p.2, p.3

FEBRUARY, p.2, p.3,  p.5, 

MARCH p.2, p.3, p.4 p.5, p.6, p.7

APRIL p.2, p.3, p.4, p.5, p.6, p.7, p.8, p.9, p.10, p11

May, p.2, p.2b p.3, p.4, p5, p.6 p.7, p.9